by Marcia Reed & Glenn Phillips
Ever innovative and predictably diverse in their physical formats, artists' books occupy a creative space between the familiar four-cornered object and challenging works of art that effectively question every preconception of what a book can be.
Many artists specialise in producing self-contained art projects in the form of books, like Ken Campbell and Susan King, or they establish small presses, like Simon Cutts and Erica Van Horn's Coracle Press or Harry and Sandra Reese's Turkey Press. Countless others who are primarily known as sculptors, painters, or performance artists carry on a parallel practice in artists' books, including Anselm Kiefer, Annette Messager, Ed Ruscha, and Richard Tuttle.
Artists and Their Books / Books and Their Artists includes eighty important examples selected from the Getty Research Institute's Special Collections of more than six thousand editions and unique artists' books. This elegant catalogue also presents precursors to the artist's book, such as Joris Hoefnagel's sixteenth-century calligraphy masterpiece; single-sheet episodes from Albrecht Dürer's Life of Mary, designed to be either broadsides or a book; early illustrated scientific works; and avant-garde publications. Twentieth-century works reveal the impact of artists' books on Pop art, Fluxus, Conceptual, feminist art, and postmodernism. The selection of books by an international range of artists who have chosen to work with texts and images on paper provokes new inquiry into the nature of art and books in contemporary culture.