Drawing on the avant-garde/twentieth century aspiration for a ‘total’ art work, the material dimension of the book and the canonicity of its chronological/sequential use, limited for centuries by written culture as a mnestic support in a more or less close dialogue with the field of illustration, can be fused with the specificity of a form of autonomous art. The collection SPAZIO LIBRO D’ARTISTA of Catania has borne witness to this form ever since the key work by Edward Ruscha, Twentysix Stations Gasolines.
The outcome of interest and constant work, that has led to gathering together over the last four years approximately 500 rare and signed artists’ books, precious editions and editions with illustrations and original works, in addition to a substantial number of exhibition catalogues and art books, the collection SPAZIO LIBRO D’ARTISTA currently represents the most important source of artists’ books in Sicily.
Beyond any – difficult – classificatory discrimination, given by the various forms (leporello, multiples, ephemera), by the several expressive suggestions, by the materials used, by the working methods (that have identified at times as book-object, livre de peintre, art book, figurative book, non-book) the artist’s book maintains its original structure, albeit rarefied and deconstructed, but from communicative medium it has passed on to become an aesthetic object. It has taken on this role slowly, through the chapters of a History of Art that has, in alternating phases, neglected, excluded, loaded with meaning and made more visible the artist’s book. It has then imploded in a self-significance that is no longer at the service of the word, in a self-referentiality and uniqueness that are specific qualities of the contemporary art work and as such, able to give it a new perceptive form.
This exhibition is therefore not so much a history of the book and art publishing, but rather a gallery of examples that have the task of demonstrating the continuity of an art form that is still not exhausted, also after the attention it achieved in the 60s and 70s.
The exhibition, with a high qualitative profile, sets out to represent the crux of problematics and contradictions inherent in the manipulation of the book object by the artist (the dialectic uniqueness/seriality, design/manual skill, intellectual responsibility/autonomy of the finished product) from an entirely contemporary outlook that explains its existence (and its sense) today, testifying to how the interest for poetic processes and the spread of artists’ books is continuously growing.
The collection SPAZIO LIBRO D’ARTISTA prides itself on conserving editions of art published in Italy and abroad: the reference is to the examples also held in the collections of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, in the Museo Pecci in Prato, the Mart in Rovereto, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome, the Moma in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Thanks go to the bookshops and editors with whom a precious collaborative relationship has been established, enabling to find rare materials, among which: One Star Press, Yvon Lambert of Paris, Walther König of Cologne, Printed Matter, Ursus Books, Dia Books, Whitney Museum of New York, Gemini Press of Los Angeles, Boekie Woekie, Oto-Housesbooks of Amsterdam, Studio Bibliografico Marini, Studio Bibliografico Maffei, Liliana Dematteis of Torino, Studio Montespecchio of Modena, Centro Di of Firenze, Sims Reed, Haunch of Venison, Zwirner and Wirth, Marcus Campbell of London, Ars Books of Boston.
Finally, special thanks are due to Cornelia Lauf for the willingness shown toward the objectives of realizing this event and to Edward Ruscha for having supported the exhibition and granting permission to use the image for the catalogue cover.