ARTISTS’ BOOKS ARE MADE AND CONCEIVED BY ARTISTS AND COME IN MANY DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SIZES. DOUG FLAMM, OF URSUS BOOKS, A NEW YORK BASED BOOKSTORE SPECIALIZING IN ART BOOKS AND ILLUSTRATED BOOKS, HAS A DEEP KNOWLEDGE OF AND PASSION FOR THIS UNIQUE AREA OF PUBLISHING. PRIOR TO JOINING URSUS, DOUG WAS AN INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLER, DEALING IN THESE EXTRAORDINARY BOOKS THAT RESONATE WITH ART AND BOOK CONNOISSEURS ALIKE.
URSUS BOOKS PROVIDES AN INTERNATIONAL CLIENTELE WITH A COMPREHENSIVE SELECTION OF ARTISTS’ BOOKS, REFERENCE BOOKS, EXCEPTIONAL COPIES OF RARE BOOKS IN ALL FIELDS AND FINE ANTIQUE DECORATIVE PRINTS. LOCATED ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF 699 MADISON AVENUE AT 63rd STREET, URSUS IS AN INVITING AND WELL-STOCKED NICHE WITH A WELCOMING AND INFORMED STAFF. http://www.ursusbooks.com/
IN HIS ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE LRFA BLOG, DOUG EXPLAINED THE REVOLUTIONARY INFLUENCE THAT ARTIST ED RUSCHA HAD ON ARTISTS’ BOOKS (FORMERLY IN THE FORMAT OF LIMITED EDITIONS BY 20th CENTURY MASTERS SUCH AS PICASSO AND MATISSE, OFTEN CONTAINING AN ORIGINAL ETCHING OR LITHOGRAPHY BY THE ARTIST.)
Ed Ruscha turned this category on its head. He changed the definition of what an artist’s book is. He conceived of ideas and projects using the commonplace technology of off-set printing. He selected very banal subjects (as he does in his paintings and works on paper) – parking lots, gas stations, swimming pools, and produced these images in a rudimentary way that parallels his artistic genre. In so doing, he created extraordinary objects that don’t fall within the traditions of livres d’artiste but have a value and vitality very much their own and liberated this form of artistic invention.
I WAS DELIGHTED WHEN DOUG AGREED TO GATHER TOGETHER A WONDERFUL SELECTION OF ARTISTS’ BOOKS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT URSUS – A MEMORABLE GIFT FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON OR A GREAT ADDITION TO ONE’S OWN LIBRARY YEAR ROUND.
ELIASSON, Olafur. Your House.
908 pp. Illustrated by Olafur Eliasson using computer-aided laser die-cuts. Oblong folio, 285 x 440 mm, bound in original cloth. New York: Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art, 2006. (#157176) $18,500.00
Conceived by Olafur Eliasson as part of the Contemporary Editions series at The Museum of Modern Art, this book is one of the more exciting new achievements in book making in the 21st Century. The subject of the book is Eliasson’s house in Denmark that is rendered in a vertical cross-section through an elaborate laser die-cut process of each page. The format of the book allows Eliasson the space to fully realize his idea on a scale of 85:1, so that each leaf corresponds to 2.2 centimeters of the actual house.
Eliasson summarizes the experience of viewing this book, “Reading a book is both a physical and a mental activity. It is like walking through a house, following the layout of the rooms with your body and mind: the movement from one room to another, or from one part of the book to another, constitutes an experiential narrative that is physical and conscious at the same time.”
Signed by Eliasson on the colophon. One of an edition of 225 copies. Condition is as new.
Born in 1967, Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist whose sculptural and installation works are deeply informed by culture, ecology, and the nature of human perception. His works are inspired by his investigation of the relationship between subjective perception and natural phenomena. Perception, according to Eliasson, is as much an immediate sensory experience as it is rooted within the cultural framework of our memory.
Among the recurring themes in Eliasson’s works are light, ephemerality, and the environment. Such projects like The Weather Project (2003) in which an ecological model is placed into an institutional model frame of the Tate Modern, are fundamental rejections of object-based art. In creating environments and situations that engage our most basic sensory responses, Eliasson’s works democratize the experience of art. Participation and the act of viewing brings Eliasson’s works to life as he once explained, “I like to think that my work can return criticality to the viewer as a tool for negotiating and reevaluating the environment—and that this can pave the way for a more causal relationship with our surroundings.”
LEWITT, Sol. Complex Forms.
Comprised of four (4) large double-folded colour screenprints, 355 x 1420 mm (14 x 56 inches). Square folio, 360 x 360 mm, bound in thick paper over board, lettered spine and both covers with original colour screenprints by Lewitt. Preserved in black cloth folding box. Zurich: Annemarie Verna & New York: Brooke Alexander, 1990. (#156784) $30,000.00
Edition limited to 15 copies signed and numbered by Lewitt. These four original coloured screenprints printed by Watanabe Studio in New York capture on paper the amazing Lewitt series of wall paintings that the artist conceived in 1987-88. Complex Forms represents Lewitt’s experiments with fracturing the cube into component parts. The application of four colours juxtaposed in variations of hue and saturation further expands the visual experimentation.
A key factor to emphasize is that Lewitt’s wall paintings were executed directly on the wall for a limited duration, usually a month or two. When a given exhibition was over, many of his creations were not sold and carried away like a painting or sculpture. They were simply painted over and permanently lost except for the original drawings and/or colour gouaches.
“The essence of Lewitt’s work is the original idea as formulated in the artist’s mind. Because it emphasizes conceiving rather than implementing, this kind of art has often been referred to as conceptual art” (Andrea Miller-Keller, Sol Lewitt: Twenty-Five Years of Wall Paintings 1968-1993 in the exhibition catalogue of Addison Gallery, University of Washington Press, 1993, p.37). Condition is “as new.”
Sol LeWitt, whose deceptively simple geometric sculptures and drawings and ecstatically colored and jazzy wall paintings established him as a lodestar of modern American art. Sol LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1928. As a child, he attended art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. LeWitt completed a BFA at Syracuse University in 1949 and then served in the United States Army in Korea and Japan during the Korean War. In 1953 he moved to New York, where he took classes at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School and did production work for Seventeen magazine. LeWitt subsequently worked in graphic design in the office of architect I. M. Pei from 1955 to 1956. During the first half of the 1960s, LeWitt supported himself by working as a night receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art, where he met future critic Lucy Lippard and fellow artists Dan Flavin, Robert Mangold, and Robert Ryman.\
LeWitt is regarded as a founder of both Minimal and Conceptual art. Inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of animals and people in motion, LeWitt incorporated seriality in his work to imply the passage of time or narrative. Two important essays by LeWitt, in particular, defined the new movement: “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) and “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969). The earlier text proclaimed: “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” He began making wall drawings in 1968. The earliest consisted of pencil lines—in systematized arrangements of verticals, horizontals, and diagonals on a 45-degree angle—drawn directly on the walls. Later wall drawings included circles and arcs and colored pencil. LeWitt would eventually use teams of assistants to create such works.
In the early 1960s, LeWitt made paintings and reliefs before concentrating on three-dimensional works based on the cube in the mid-1960s. For these, he used precise, measured formats such as grids and modules, and systematically developed variations. His methods were mathematically based, defined by language, or created through random processes. He took up similar approaches in works on paper.
RUSCHA, EDWARD. Every Building on the Sunset Strip.
Every Building on the Sunset Strip
Accordian fold artist’s book illustrated in b&w. 8vo, wraps preserved in a new cloth box. 1966. (#105867) $7,500.00
First Edition, first printing. Photomontage showing contiguously every building on both sides of the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
Approximately 22 feet long when folded out to its full length. Ruscha identifies street numbers and the names of cross streets. The folded accordion paper of Ruscha’s “Sunset Strip” has an extra 2″ flap of paper folded over behind the last page, therefore making this a true first edition. The final Jaguar building is pictured alone on this last half page. All other editions are cut evenly on the final page, including later printings that say “first edition” in front. Apparently the printer made an error in estimating the proper folding length of the printed paper the first time, but this was corrected in subsequent editions. Chip to silver mylar of slipcase and slight crease to spine of book, else a very good copy.
Ed Ruscha’s photography, drawing, painting, and artist books record the shifting emblems of American life in the last half century. His deadpan representations of Hollywood logos, stylized gas stations, and archetypal landscapes distill the imagery of popular culture into a language of cinematic and typographical codes. The ironic choice of words and phrases that are a dominant feature in his work draw upon the moments of incidental ambiguity implicit in the interplay between the word and image. Although his images are undeniably rooted in the language of a piercing observation of American life, his elegantly conceived art addresses complex and widespread issues regarding the appearance and function of the world at large and our transient place within it.
Ruscha’s artist books have proved to be deeply influential. They have widely influential other artists who have adopted their disaffected look. Their influence also extends to architects: Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi and Frank Gehry, who has known Ruscha since the 1960s. Inspired by the unassuming books that he found on street stalls during a trip to Europe, in 1962 Ruscha published his first artist book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations under his own imprint, National Excelsior Press.
MORE SPECIAL ADDITIONS TO YOUR HOLIDAY GIFT LIST IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG.