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Library . Artists' Books 

Artists' Books

Artists' Books Collection

The Institute's nationally recognized collection of artists' books contains about 1,600 books from the 1960s to the present, and is international in scope. The collection is especially strong in early conceptual artists’ books and contains many of the most historically significant books of this genre, including Edward Ruscha’s seminal Twentysix Gasoline Stations plus an additional 13 books by Ruscha spanning his long career. Other important classics include Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler…(known as the “Xerox Book”), John Baldassari’s Brutus Killed Caesar, Michael Snow’s Cover to Cover, and Sol Lewitt’s Autobiography. The collection also includes artists who have focused more on the book’s physical characteristics, such as Emily Martin, Keith A. Smith, and Brian Dettmer. In total, the collection reflects the history of this dynamic art form since the genre’s emergence in the second half of the 20th century.

Most of the artists’ books are multiples – created by well-known artists (such as Claes Oldenburg, Carrie Mae Weems, Richard Long, Dieter Roth, and Barbara Kruger) as well as less familiar artists who have turned to the book form, or concept, for artistic expression, exploration, and experimentation. Materials used in the books range well beyond paper and include fabric, ceramics, glass, metal, bark, rubber, hair, and Legos® among other things. Words are not required, but words can also serve as image. The collection also has some one-of-a-kind books and some books made by Institute students and faculty. All of the books are listed in the library’s online catalog and can be most easily searched using the “Browse the artists’ books” feature.

The artists' books collection is broadly defined and includes books made by artists, created outside of the publishing mainstream:

  • Artists' books: created by artists not usually associated with bookmaking (such as video and film makers, photographers, and performance artists), as an alternative to traditional means of producing and exhibiting art and with the intent to make art accessible and affordable for all.
  • Book objects and bookworks: often one-of-a-kind or limited edition books, usually emphasizing the physical aspects of the book form or structure and sometimes taking on a sculptural quality.
  • Fine press books: made by craftspeople using traditional materials and techniques, printed by independently owned and operated presses, and with an emphasis on traditional book arts (printing, papermaking, binding, etc.).
  • Alternative and small press publications: use cheaper and more accessible technologies (mimeograph, offset, and photocopier), tend to be motivated by advocacy (rather than craft), and are more often produced by writers rather than visual artists.

 Click here for a guide on making your own artists' book.

For more information:

Cristine Rom
Library Director
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The CIA Library

The Cleveland Institute of Art

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