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Megan N. Liberty

Megan N. Liberty is the Art Books Editor at the Brooklyn Rail. Her interests include text and image, artists’ books and ephemera, and archive curatorial practices.

In Conversation

Tammy Nguyen with Megan N. Liberty

Nguyen transforms her research into glittering lacquered paper paintings, collages, and artists’ books.

In Conversation

MARK BLOCH with Megan N. Liberty

For over four decades, artist and writer Mark Bloch has been fastidiously building his archive of mail art, a practice he began in the late ’70s under the banner of the Postal Art Network—giving him his artistic pseudonym PAN.

In Conversation

CHITRA GANESH with Megan N. Liberty

Brooklyn-based artist Chitra Ganesh speaks with Megan N. Liberty about rethinking public space and public monuments, the way comics are uniquely equipped to represent this time of rupture and isolation, modernist narrative strategies, and reimagining archives.

In Conversation

LESLIE HEWITT with Megan N. Liberty

Leslie Hewitt speaks with Rail Art Books editor, Megan N. Liberty on the occasion of the opening of her project space at Perrotin, NY, Anatomy of a Flower and Other Studio Experiments.

Sara Erenthal’s Art of the Street and Screen

Artist Sara Erenthal’s canvases are discarded objects: flat-screen TVs, couches, refrigerators, and wooden panels and doors. Her characteristic iconography is a hand-painted, black-outlined woman with big hair, almond-shaped eyes, and small red lips accompanied by lines like “I’LL BE AS LOUD AS I NEED TO BE,” “GOOD NEWS IS COMING STAY TUNED,” and “I WON’T MAKE MYSELF VULNERABLE TODAY” (the last notably written on a discarded mattress).

Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces

As the trend in institutions turns towards greater support of BIPOC artists, Changing Spaces is just one historical exhibition offering substantial attention to their work.

Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined

Spanning all four floors (in addition to one sculpture in the sky room), Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined brings together nearly three decades of the multimedia artist’s work, from intricate collages and large-scale sculptures, to videos and small assemblages.


The human spine supports our bodies; it is both sturdy and flexible, bending, moving, shifting, and curving us. But spines are also fragile—something slips out of place and suddenly our bodies crumple. Books, too, have spines, structures that hold together the fibers of its pages, sometimes stiff and solid, sometimes flexible and soft.

Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)

John Cage’s musical compositions are known for requiring a high level of interpretation on the part of the musician: they are more of a collaboration with the composer than a direct translation of written notes into auditory musical form.

International Pop

The British art critic Lawrence Alloway, one of the earliest theorists of Pop Art, wrote that the “term [Pop Art] refers to the use of popular art sources by fine artists: movie stills, science fiction, advertisements, games boards, heroes of the mass media.”

Jon-Michael Frank and Bianca Stone

Some artists, such as Bianca Stone and Jon-Michael Frank, are responding to the new order of things through the genre of poetry comics, which combine illustrations with brief lines of text.

Reading as Art & Publishing as Artistic Practice

Can reading be a form of making? And if reading is making, what, then, of publishing? Two recent publications take these questions as their starting points.

Blurred Library: Essays on Artists’ Books

How do we enter a book? How do we move around in it and travel between its pages, chapters, and various corners and openings? These are some of the questions Tate Shaw asks in his collection, Blurred Library: Essays on Artists’ Books.

Sarah Tulloch's ObjectImage

While British artist Sarah Tulloch was completing her undergraduate degree in fine art, she inherited a collection of photographs from her grandfather, an amateur photographer whom she hadn’t known very well because he lived in Australia and she in the United Kingdom.

Stanley Whitney: Sketchbook

Known as an abstract painter for his bold use of gridded color swatches, Stanley Whitney crowds his drawings with an abundance of line, as seen in his September-October exhibition of drawings at Lisson Gallery in Chelsea.

Mirtha Dermisache's Selected Writings and Renee Gladman's Prose Architectures

Imagine if writing was a purely visual endeavor without linguistic or syntactical meaning. Could we read the curves and slants, thickness, and size of the lines like we would alphabetical or pictorial characters? The writings and drawings of Mirtha Dermisache and Renee Gladman beg these questions.

An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour

In the 1920s, Professor Edward Forbes, Harvard art historian and then-director of its Fogg Art Museum, wanted to give his students the opportunity to learn from European masterworks. But in order to be sure he was acquiring the real paintings, he had to develop a better sense of the authenticity of painting materials. To accomplish this, he built what is now one of the largest and most expansive collections of color samples, including over 2,500 of the rarest pigments in the world.

In Conversation

SONEL BRESLAV with Megan N. Liberty

I first met Sonel Breslav, Printed Matter’s new Director of Fairs and Editions, through the BABZ Fair (formerly known as the Bushwick Art Book & Zine Fair) organized by Blonde Art Books, which she began in 2012 as a vehicle for self-published and small press art and poetry books. On the occasion of Printed Matter’s thirteenth Annual NY Art Book Fair (NYABF), I talked with Sonel about the rising interest in art books and fairs, the challenges of exhibiting books, and how to balance programming, display, and commerce at the fair.

Richard McGuire’s Art For The Street 1978 – 1982

The diversity of Richard McGuire’s work is surprising; from his illustrations for The New Yorker and McSweeney’s and published graphic novels Here (2014) and Sequential Drawings (2016) that treat the book as a sculptural object—something I’ve argued in a previous review of Here—to his musical and performance career as a founding member of the post-punk band Liquid Liquid.

Michalis Pichler's Publishing Manifestos

Michalis Pichler's edited anthology, Publishing Manifestos, intended to celebrate and archive ten years of the Berlin-based art book fair Miss Read, asks two central questions: what is the function of art fair catalogues and what can they be?

Leslie Hewitt

Leslie Hewitt’s photography blurs the lines between photo and sculpture, exploring the intersection of history, memory, and archive.

Guestbook: Ghost Stories

These stories fall into the category of more traditional ghost stories, where a poltergeist haunts a place it once lived—or died—in. But what rings most true and fits within the context of Shapton’s larger work (Important Artifacts particularly) are the ghosts not of people but of things.

Meghann Riepenhoff's Littoral Drift and Ecotone

In much the same way her wall works create a relationship between humans and nature, her two-part publication, Littoral Drift + Ecotone, pushes the form of the book towards water, highlighting the surprising formal qualities these two mediums share.

In Conversation

Art Books Dispatches from the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair

My conversation with Devers underscored the importance of collecting as a means of rectifying history. “It seems like a nostalgic pursuit, but the more energy in the market around certain books, the more likely it gets onto syllabus and back into print.”

Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes's Modernism

Djuna Barnes (1892–1982) remains one of the most important lesser known modernist figures. A true Renaissance woman, Barnes was a literary pioneer of modernism, writing queer novels like Nightwood (1936) and Ladies Almanack (1928), in addition to plays, poems, and her work as a New York-based journalist.

Nights on Prose Mountain

A new collection that captures the enigmatic prose of poet and interdisciplinary figure bpNichol. The collection appears not like a traditional collected stories, but rather a book grouped thematically by time and subject matter more so than genre or form.

Steven Leiber Catalogs

The art of the 1960s and 1970s is characterized by its tendency to disintegrate—to take forms other than physical ones. As Lucy Lippard writes in the opening to her book Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, “Conceptual art, for me, means work in which the idea is paramount and the material form is secondary, lightweight, ephemeral, cheap, unpretentious and/or ‘dematerialized.’”

Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle’s SIR

Equal parts artist book, poetry collection, and memoir, SIR explores Hinkle’s mother’s decision to name her first son Sir, the aspirational power of names and what they carry for their bearers, and the inescapable nature of history.

David Wojnarowicz's In the Shadow of Forward Motion

This facsimile of the original 1989 zine that originally accompanied a show at P.P.O.W gallery, reveals the artist’s vulnerable and deeply symbolic writing style alongside his visual work. His writing shifts from urgent whispers to angry pleas, revealing an artist willing to bare his inconsistencies publicly.

Dayanita Singh's Zakir Hussain Maquette

A facsimile of Singh’s original maquette showcases her cut-and-paste working method, revealing the centrality of craft and sequence and offering insight into the bookmaker’s meticulous choices.

Mayumi Hosokura’s New Skin

At a time when touch is limited, a new photobook showing an abstracted collage of bodies—disembodied arms, clutching hands, bottoms of feet, clumps of hair, edges of chests and nipples—reminds us of the alluring sensuality of contact.

Renee Gladman’s One Long Black Sentence

The white lined drawings glow against the full-bleed black pages, encased in a black hardcover with embroidered white lines that are physically raised off the surface. These cityscapes, celestial scenes, and cartographic “paragraph drawings” conjure a vision of a different world, reconsidering the form of a sentence.

Martine Syms’s Shame Space

Martine Syms makes her material digital influx, trafficking in the visual and textual overload of contemporary communication. While her videos reflect the pace and flux of digital life, her publications offer a moment to slow down and move at one’s own pace.

Derek Sullivan’s Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library

Interested in ephemera, networks of distribution, and how materials are activated through circulation and use, Sullivan’s latest book translates an exhibition catalogue documenting ephemera (audio tapes, manuscripts, buttons, and books) from a 1984 show at Art Metropole into an artist book. This rendering shows that history and the archive are always ongoing, constantly being revised, added to, amended, redrawn, and redistributed.

Allen Frame’s Fever

The guise of the archive is the best under which to first approach Frame’s body of work, especially his color photography from 1981. The photographs are snapshots in a way—quick and unframed—and yet, the small details and omissions reveal as much as they conceal, evidencing a close looking, documenting, and refocusing.

Editor’s Note

Poetry makes language visual, emphasizing its ekphrastic potential to conjure images out of words. Sometimes the words themselves form images, as in concrete poetry, in which the mise-en-scene of the words on the page is essential to their meaning. Other times, the enjambment acts only to create a break in action, a pause. Other times still, the words spill out like long endless paragraphs, as in prose poetry. In all these cases, what ties these words together is a certain indefinable focus on the visual potential of language.

Jessica Vaughn’s Depreciating Assets

Her first artist book examines the human toll of corporate design aesthetics.

A Joe Brainard Show in a Book

This collection of zines and book jacket designs celebrates Brainard’s generosity, but also his skill as a designer, highlighting the material aspects of the artist’s hand, his graphic design sensibility, and use of the space of the page.

Robin Richardson’s Try Not to Get Too Attached

Including paragraphs of prose poetry and drawings with hand drawn lines of text, Richardson’s visual-verbal poetry collection speaks to the condition of being a woman today.

The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader

Including a full facsimile reproduction of Madeline Gins’s out-of-print 1969 novel WORD RAIN, as well as previously unpublished essays and poems, this collection illustrates Gins’s ability to capture the embodied experience of reading and celebrates her mastery as an experimental writer.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s wild wild Wild West / Haunting of the Seahorse

While these two attached books tell very different stories, the first about the death of the artist’s grandmother and the other a science fiction tale of a family living on a space station, both grapple with grief, love, and the haunting nature of bodies.

Women in Concrete Poetry 1959–1979

This addendum to the history of concrete poetry makes evident the connections between concrete poetry and artist books. Chance visual connections between the diverse works included make visible the materiality of language, the unifying component of concrete poetry.

Ulises Carrión's Sonnet(s)

First published in 1972 as a typewritten staple-bound mimeograph book of 44 typographic versions of a Dante Gabriel Rossetti sonnet, the republication of this bookwork as a trade paperback with scholarly essays gives it a new afterlife. In it, the words themselves and their meaning become secondary to the typography itself.

Nozomi Yamashita’s Photo Zines

Using collaged inkjet printed images, tracing paper, and embroidered beaded felt, the artist creates an object that reads as both amateurish and skillfully crafted—qualities often set at odds. Yamashita elevates these private practices to the public practice of publishing, making space for the concerns and desires of girls and young women.

Sol LeWitt: Not to Be Sold for More Than $100 and Sol LeWitt: Folds & Rips

Two new books document the artist’s lesser-known practice of making ripped and folded drawings, making the case that they deserve the attention and scholarship of two books, and many more.

Paolo Javier’s O.B.B. a.k.a. The Original Brown Boy

A poetry comic that requires (and rewards) constant re-reading, like learning a new language. A chaotic mix of black-and-white photocopy-style images and texts that is an ode to the anti-storytelling potential of poetry.

Troy Montes-Michie’s Rock of Eye

These collages use the multiple interpretations and histories of the stitch to explore masculinity, sexuality, and marginal identities. In a moment when conversations around the policing of Black bodies in public space continue to grow and gain momentum, Montes-Michie’s quiet scenes of interiority dramatically change the context.

Barbara T. Smith’s The Way to Be

In lieu of an exhibition catalog, Smith’s memoir serves as the show's accompanying publication, foregrounding the personal nature of her practice, which places her own body and lived experience as material, even at times to her own detriment.

Penny Slinger's 50% the Visible Woman and Inside Out

Penny Slinger was studying at Chelsea College of Art when she discovered Max Ernst's collage books. Ernst's printmaking and collage remains a landmark in artistic and literary publishing. While Slinger was inspired by his techniques of visual narrative and exciting juxtapositions, she was also struck by his poor representations of women, shared by most of the male-dominated Surrealist milieu.

Printed Matter

Printed Matter has something of a legendary origin story, equal parts oral history, hearsay, and gossip, passed down through the decades in letters, postcards, photographs, and artist accounts. The exact series of events remains a bit murky—nearly all the early participants claim status as an originator.

Center for Book Arts

Wandering around the flower district of Manhattan, you may be surprised to see a green flag hanging high above the flowers, signaling the location of the Center for Book Arts (CBA) on the third floor, where it has been located since 1999. As artist and designer Ben Denzer recently wrote to me, “Despite coming and going to CBA all the time, I can never really get over how much of an unexpected gem it is. The fact that this book utopia is hiding on the third floor of a random building on 27th street has always made me look at all NYC buildings as if each might contain delightful secrets inside.”


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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