In the air: Exhibits, books, and yes, binders full of women

Staff at the Mechanics Institute, Toronto, 1895, from Toronto Reference Library Archives

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that the internet’s been ablaze with binder references since Mitt Romney’s infamous gaffe during the 2nd presidential debate just over a week ago. Not only have the inevitable Tumblr and Twitter accounts blown up with remarkable speed and fury, Amazon saw an explosion of satirical binder reviews submitted in the debate’s wake, raising this form of crowdsourced art to a whole new level of political engagement.

Here in Toronto, we were surprised and not just a bit delighted to see the Toronto Reference Library jump into the game with their timely blog post, “Binders full of women: Etchings at the Toronto Reference Library“. Featuring an extensive engravings collection of 18th and 19th century actors, dancers, and japanese kabuki prints, as well as hundreds of thousands of historical fashion, graphic design, and advertising images organized by decade, we’d argue that the TRL’s binders inspire a bit more confidence than Romney’s — and at the very least are probably quite a bit thicker.

Druckworks: 40 Years of Books and Projects by Johanna Drucker, Columbia College Chicago

Back in the US of A, another woman has been making waves in the world of artists books since 1972. Joanna Drucker is a prolific book artist, writer, and scholar/critic who is internationally known for her work in visual poetics and digital aesthetic theory. Her retrospective, titled DRUCKWORKS: 40 Years of Books and Projects by Johanna Drucker, is on view at Columbia College Chicago through December 7th, and will travel to the San Francisco Center for the Book in May 2013. A full-length catalogue is available through the Center for Book and Paper Arts here. (via Pedro Velez/@JonesDistrict)

Drucker also co-founded the Journal of Artists’ Books with Brad Freeman in 1994, and as the longest-running journal in the field it has become a record of the development of the art form. The beautiful current issue, JAB32: From Portugal, traces the history, ideas, people, and works that define experimental publishing, art, and poetry in Portugal from the mid–twentieth century to the present day.

Various artists, KWY covers 1958–1964, photograph by Filipe Braga

Exhibition view, Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art, at MCA Denver

Speaking of experimental publishing, the reviews are out for Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art, an exhibition we previewed earlier on the blog. Befitting today’s theme, it is curated by two women (Nora Burnett Abrams and Andrea Andersson, friends both), and approaches art and language through its examination of conceptual strategies of appropriation, redaction, transcription, translation and constraint. A major publication will be available next year, hopefully in time for the exhibition’s opening here at the Power Plant in June. Currently on view at MCA Denver.

João Onofre, Catriona Shaw Sings “Baldessari sings LeWitt” re-edit, “Like a Virgin” extended version, 2003

Read “Postscript: MCA Denver defines language as an art medium” at 303 Magazine
Read “Re-use of Language: The exhibition Postscript brings together experimental literature and contemporary art”, featuring an interview with Nora Burnett Abrams, at Magenta Magazine

Lastly, we greatly enjoyed Sheila Heti’s review of Sophie Calle’s The Address Book for The Believer Logger. Having found an address book on the streets of Paris in the 1980s, Calle proceeds to contact each person listed within for an interview about its owner. A fascinating project which makes Vito Acconci’s Following Piece seem tame by comparison, Calle’s transgressions were published as a series of articles in the Libération until the address book’s owner threatened to sue. Ultimately (and luckily for us) he agreed to its publication after his death, and the result is Siglio Press’ lovely little volume, featuring a luminous series of photographs and designed in collaboration with Calle herself.

Read more about The Address Book on the Siglio Press website, where the book is now available for purchase at a discount in advance of wide release.

Big ups to the ladies then! For even more inspiration, read this editorial by the legendary Judy Chicago earlier this month in The Guardian“We women artists refuse to be written out of history”.

Judy Chicago, Bigamy Hood; photograph: Donald Woodman

(thanks: Megan Park)

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