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"Conceptual Art and Travelers' Tales in Book As Art XI"
1999-07-19 until 1999-12-31
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC, USA United States of America

Book as Art XI, the latest exhibition in the annual series showcasing artists' books at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, includes a strong representation of works by internationally recognized conceptual artists and by artists taking both real and imaginary journeys. Book as Art XI will be on view in the museum's Library and Research Center. Image: Barbara Fahrner Turandot n.d. gouache, watercolor and ink on paper 13 x 11 1/2 in. Private Collection

Agnes Denes, one of the originators of Conceptual Art, employs mathematics, science, philosophy, and psychology in her art. Her book Fragmentation, consisting of a poem and six etchings, is a hymn to the mind that measures, decodes, solves, and creates. Drawings and prints in Fragmentation include alternative representations of the planet Earth as a cube, a pyramid, a snail, a doughnut, a hot dog, a lemon, and an egg. The continents, flattened to fit the oval of an egg or elongated to match the shape a hot dog, reiterate that things are not always as they seem.

Another prominent artist whose roots stem from Conceptual and Environmental Art is Michelle Stuart. Two of Stuart's bookworks, Baltic Boat Book and Sea Turtle Stone Book, focus on her passion and constant source of inspiration: travel to exotic locations. Visual sagas without text, both books are recollections of journeys. They are rendered on monochromatic, square sheets of paper rubbed with gravel, plants, sand, and dust. Baltic Boat Book evokes the artist's sailing experience in a tiny boat, as she remembers passing warships looming like giants, while our boat skimmed like a toy in a child's tub. Sea Turtle Stone Book was inspired by Stuart's trip to Hawaii with her mother in 1984, where they visited sacred and historic sites.

Molly Van Nice is another type of traveler, going on journeys of the mind. Van Nice is a collector and archivist who transforms and alters found objects, creating for them a new poetic and visual context. Notings of the Journeyman, a series of 15 book-objects contained in Van Nice's paintboxes, is a visual narrative of a life journey. The artist, who collected for these works from the time she was a little girl, included in one book-object a paper plate, a fork and knife, and a partly-consumed book. A voracious reader in addition to being a worldly traveler, Van Nice devours her books.

In addition to conceptual works, other highlights of Book as Art XI include a spectacular interpretation of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot by Barbara Fahrner; a pop-up book of flowers by Debra Weier; and a story, The Uneventful Life of Doņa Carmen y Constanza by Inez Storer and Marie Dern. Sandra Jackman created Not Just a Child Story, a tale of an abandoned boy pushing his baby sister in a cart through the streets of an unnamed city as he forages in trash cans for food. Laurie Jackson's miniature book bemoans the domestic chores of working women.

Book as Art XI was funded in part by the Library Fellows of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Mrs. Oliver R. Grace, and museum members. The curator is Krystyna Wasserman, director of the Library and Research Center and author of the exhibition brochure, available in the Museum Shop for $5.00.

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