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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.

Spine

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.

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.

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.”

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.’”

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.

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.

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

All Issues