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Art of the Book at Cooper Union

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday November 28, 2018

Every year around now, since 1995, The Cooper Union School of Art presents an exhibition on Art of the Book. The course, designed by Professor Margaret Morton, allows students to immerse themselves in this thorny question: what is an “artists book”?

Luckily for the artists, there’s an infinite number of answers. 

This year’s iteration of the show, which I’ve been following for at least 12 years or so, reaches a high point in visually and verbally articulating 29 answers, by 14 artists, to the question. Following is a selection of several that completely engaged my visual and cerebral mechanisms.


Immanuel Birkert: How I contemplate the works of the world’s great artists and employ them for the benefit of my soul.

Since I photograph with only my phone, I created a folder of my favorite pictures from the last two years. I now present 400 of them in pairs. Alongside photos from my trip to the desert, visits to museums in Italy, and work from my studio, there are screenshots of my favorite art and foods I ate.


Jermaine Carter: Jamal

A series of comic strips, illustrated with black matte ink on a highly reflective rubber-like material, are contained in this book. The comics bleed through one another as the pages are mostly transparent. The book evokes self-reflection, and the sensory components of the book create flexibility. The rubber works as a mirror to see oneself within the book.


Rafaella Fontenelle: Valuable Excretions

We sift lessons to our liking but ignore the structure of the sifter and forget that in the dams of its mesh, a collection of sediments form. The fine secretions of something once aggressive and thick gather in these fibers. Here, these sediments become approachable, gentle almost, and valuable.

Growing up, proverbs were commonly told to me and then, they felt cold—like simplified solutions to larger issues. These proverbs were a given, food for a susceptible child. They were unquestionable, organic and ingested, but often followed by regurgitation.


Dayi Fu: Extension: Specta

Extension, a set of three books, presents a model of education or a mini-library inspiring individual choice. Each book, as it decreases in size, increases in complexity: Light, the largest volume, offers simple elemental elements such as shapes and letters of the alphabet; Medium offers factual information and diagrams, and finally Heavy, a precious pocket-sized book, contains conceptual and emotional poems, mimetic tragic writings, and drawings in esoteric vernacular. Each book bids upon the previous.


Magnus Peterson Horner: Pond

The first chapter in a fantasy novel titled Pond:  Francis and Albert stumble upon a jewel called Blue Planet and decide to sell it and buy a ship to explore the lands that lie beyond the island of River Town. Their adventure takes them to the desert forest, tundra, and beyond. The photographs on the cover performs as a map of their adventure.

Art of the Book  2018  continues through December 8, 2018, at The School of Art, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Foundation Building, Second Floor Lobby, 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenue, NY, NY Info

Ed. note: It must be stated that Professor Morton is a long-time friend, whose book Fragile Dwelling (Aperture 2000) I edited. Photos: © Peggy Roalf

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