Artist Books: What Are They Good For?
Words, Non-Fiction
Houston, TX

Institutions that collect rare books tend to collect everything from zines to massive screenprinted ephemera bound in somewhat bookish formats, to odd letterpressed scrolls and even mass-produced offset-printed books that are long out of print. Artists however tend to draw definitive distinctions between artist-books and, say, zines, or offset-printed books. Even if said offset-printed books were to utilize special paper and dozens of different Pantone spot colors, it still wouldn’t be considered a true artist-book, not to many, largely due to the major part played by mechanization in its production. The true artist-book (many artists feel but maybe wouldn’t flat out say) is the kind of book that involves a lot of manual hands-on stuff in its process. As someone who’s been involved in the making of all manner of books, the vast majority of them taken on as artistic endeavors, I find such hard distinctions a bit problematic, while I also understand the need for a degree of differentiation just for the sake of categorization and well, the ability to talk about projects and engage in some kind of dialogue about them. So, for the purpose of this post I will be referring to the very hands-on type books as True Artist-Books. This is not in any way to belittle artist-books that are a little less hands-on. Those too I’ll be talking about but referencing in other terms which I’ll get into in more detail shortly.

In discussing various types of artist books though, it isn’t enough to talk about medium, is it? One must also discuss purpose, because more often than not, the choice of medium is often dictated ⁠— or at the very least heavily influenced ⁠— by purpose.

In the same way that, say, a house (in the right environment) may be built entirely out of mudbrick but a skyscraper maybe not so much.

Excerpt from Artist Books: What Are They Good For?, a blog post for  Kunst Zwischen Deckeln (or, Art Between Lids).