Home » Art Books: A Collector’s Bookshelf Part Four

Art Books: A Collector’s Bookshelf Part Four

VoCA contributor and artist book collector Bill Clarke is back with a third installment from his collection, this time of books that take the form of exhibition catalogues. Check out parts one and two HERE and HERE, and part three, below.

“Recent Snow”: Michael Snow That/Cela/Dat, 2000. Image: canadianart.ca

MICHAEL SNOW: A Survey, 1970. Image: courtesy Bill Clarke.

MICHAEL SNOW: A Survey, 1970.

Like Warhol before him, Snow also took on the task of designing the catalogue for his first retrospective, which took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario in February and March of 1970. Unlike Warhol’s catalogue, however, there are some concessions to the traditional exhibition catalogue format, including a list of art works in the show, as well as a biography and C.V. But, that’s as far as it goes. For ‘A Survey’, Snow combines elements of the exhibition catalogue with a family scrapbook. The layout of the book reflects Snow’s interest in serial imagery and photographic experimentation. The limited edition hardcover is encased in a clear plastic shell, and includes several extras: a fresnal magnifying sheet; some Walking Woman stickers; a signed and numbered poster picturing drawings of a soft cover version of the book twisted into various shapes; and, notoriously, a laminated ‘bookmark’ picturing, on one side, a photo booth strip picturing the artist’s erect penis and, on the other, an equally intimate portrait of his wife, the artist Joyce Weiland, who, for her exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada the following year, designed her own artist book/exhibition catalogue, True Patriot Love.

Richard Prince: American English, 2003. Image: ursusbook.com

Richard Prince: American English, 2003.

Leaping ahead a couple of decades, the American artist Richard Prince has been, for a couple of years, issuing limited edition artist books in conjunction with his exhibitions. This one is a favourite because it is, basically, a book about book jacket design. Printed in an edition of 1,400 copies, American English documents the artist’s own book collection, contrasting American and British first editions of ‘classic’ books, from Kerouac’s On the Road to Leonard Nimoy’s I Am Not Spock, in casually staged photographs. For me, the book is an amusing romp through typefaces, graphics and publishers’ differing intentions regarding the audience they hoped to reach with the same book. For example, one edition of Pierre Boule’s Planet of the Apes is housed in a plain black cover with the title in a simple, block font in red, suggesting that this is ‘serious literature’. Another edition, retitled Monkey Planet, features a drawing of a nude woman in a cage being ogled by a group of apes. Which version would you be more interested in reading?

Buy the Richard Prince book HERE.

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