Artists’ books have flourished over the last fifty years. Although certain books have been printed with the collaboration of artists since the 18th century, the search for alternative artwork formats has inspired the use of books to multiply copies of works intended for circulation outside consecrated institutions, such as museums and galleries. Thus, an increasing number of artists began to create works technically structured like books, but which challenged our expectations of these objects.
In the 1960s and ’70s, artists’ books used printed writing and graphic design as tools to promote works of art that were closer to theory. It was a strategy for prompting reflection by the public, drawing attention to political issues, such as the mass communications industry itself, of which the printing offices that print books form a part.
From the 1980s, there was a growing interest in the materiality of books. In addition to the properties of the paper, ink and bindings became the raw material for various experiences with stamps, collages, and a range of technical processes that singularized the production of artists’ books. Thus, each piece could be unique and come closer to the original work of art. Since then, artists have moved between more conceptual and more plastic books.
The experimentalism of the artists’ book was identified by art libraries even before museums began to pay attention to this innovation. That is how the mam Library formed a collection of some hundred books, which we now bring to the public through a selection of sixty pieces. The collection began as an initiative of donators who, starting in 2009, sent artists’ books to mam Library. From 2013 onwards, it has been duly organized by the institution. The pioneering work of the mam Library has encouraged significant donations ever since, leading to the formation of one of the most significant collections of artists’ books in Brazil. Here, we have gathered together artists’ books that were not produced by commercial publishers, highlighting the singular work of certain runs.
If you want to enjoy the experience of leafing through the books on show here and other artists’ books of mam that are held permanently at the museum, please schedule an appointment with the library on a date after the conclusion of this exhibition, using the e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be able to handle books under the guidance of professionals responsible for the preservation of the works. Come and visit our library!
Book: a collection of blank pages and/or which bear images, usually fixed together at one side and trimmed at the others to form a single succession of uniform pages.
Art book: a book of which art or the artist is the subject.
Artists’ book: a book of which an artist is the author.
Book art: art which uses the form of a book.
Artwork Book: a work of art dependent on the structure of a book.
Book-object: an art object that alludes to the form of a book.
(Classification of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 1982, in Paulo Silveira, A página violada (Porto Alegre: Ed. UFRGS, 2008, 2nd ed.), 47.