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Text/Messages: Books by Artists

Text/Messages: Books by Artists, organized by Walker curator Siri Engberg and Walker librarian Rosemary Furtak, is a very exciting exhibition opening tomorrow, December 18, 2008, and will be up until April 19, 2009. It will feature artist books from the Walker’s extensive library and collection that rarely get displayed for public viewing, so its an […]

Text/Messages: Books by Artists, organized by Walker curator Siri Engberg and Walker librarian Rosemary Furtak, is a very exciting exhibition opening tomorrow, December 18, 2008, and will be up until April 19, 2009. It will feature artist books from the Walker’s extensive library and collection that rarely get displayed for public viewing, so its an absolute treat for this show to be happening. As a designer, many of these books have been highly influential, especially the typographic works by Dieter Roth and Lawrence Weiner. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia when I saw some of Edward Ruscha’s Los Angeles influenced books like Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Here are some installation images from the exhibition and a few of my favorite pieces on display:

Edward Ruscha

fig.1 fig.2 fig.3

fig.4 fig.5 fig.6

fig.1: Dieter Roth; fig.2: Lawrence Weiner; fig.3: Edward Ruscha; fig.4: Allan Kaprow; fig.5: Yoko Ono; fig.6: Richard Tuttle

About Text/Messages:

“Books have historically been an important arena for artistic endeavor. Early in the 20th century, artists often illustrated existing texts, creating deluxe publications released in limited editions. By mid-century, many were beginning to see books as a more democratic way to present visual information. The rush of underground publishing in the 1960s and rise in widely distributed leaflets, posters, and magazines set the stage for an unprecedented exploration into the book as an art form, often reflecting contemporary movements such as Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and feminism. Since then, newer modes of commercial printing and experimentations with handmade papers, unconventional methods of binding, and unexpected materials have vastly expanded the book’s potential.

Over the past 30 years, the Walker Art Center Library has amassed a significant holding of artists’ books and illustrated volumes that numbers some 1,600 objects. Usually accessible to the public only by appointment, these works, supplemented with pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, are now on view in the galleries for the first time in two decades.

Co-organized by Walker librarian Rosemary Furtak and Walker curator Siri Engberg, the show highlights this important trove of material and showcases examples from a broad range of artistic movements. The books and book-based works on view come from some of the most recognizable names in contemporary art as well as lesser known artists. The process of selecting the works in Text/Messages: Books by Artists was a fascinating endeavor for the curators, who found the premise of the exhibition to be an ideal opportunity to explore many areas within the Walker’s collections. Even in today’s digital age, artists’ continued engagement with books—as medium, material, and subject—is evidence, say Engberg and Furtak, that this is an area of artistic invention alive with ideas and possibilities.”

The exhibition’s identity, graphics and labels, designed by Walker design fellow Noa Segal, reference the card catalog system the Walker Library uses to organize it’s books. The actual call number for each book is beautifully and cleverly used as an informational and graphical basis for the show’s printed materials. In an upcoming post, a conversation between Segal and Walker curatorial fellow Dan Byers, will describe in detail the process and development of the visual identity of Text/Messages: Books by Artists.

Until then, make sure to check out upcoming events related to this exhibition:

THURSDAYS, JANUARY 8, 15, 22, AND 29, 6 – 9 PM FREE
Minnesota Center for Book Arts instructor Aki Shibata and artist Sam Hoolihan lead the curious on four bookmaking adventures that utilize audience-generated text messages, photos, found objects, and even paper! All materials will be provided. For details on individual workshops, visit

Text/Messages exhibition curators discuss the history of the Walker’s collection of artists’ books and point out examples of works that have been key contributions to this dynamic area of artistic production.

Free tickets at Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 pm
Artist’s books have always held an important place in the Walker’s collection, yet they are rarely exhibited in the gallery. David Platzker, book dealer/scholar and former director of Printed Matter, Inc., moderates a discussion on the current state of artist’s book production. Panelists include artists Buzz Spector and Harriet Bart, and James Hoff of Primary Information.

Copresented by Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Rain Taxi Review of Books.

Minnesota artists who make book-related multiples set up shop at the Walker for a day of merriment, complete with short presentations on the history of chapbooks, radical reasons for making multiples, and more. Artists’ books, chapbooks, zines, and other booklike objects will be featured. Come browse the offerings and purchase a piece from this local and thriving creative scene. For a full schedule of activities and a list of participants, visit

Copresented by, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Rain Taxi Review of Books.

* * *

In the spirit of Text/Messages, I will be posting in the upcoming month, conversations I’ve had with artists, designers and independent publishers at this year’s NY Art Book Fair about the various books, periodicals, and ‘zines that they’ve put out.

Talking with Kris Latocha of Paperback Magazine at NY Art Book Fair. Photo: Jessica Williams

  • Loren Madsen says:

    Hello Ms. Furtak and Ms. Engberg-

    I exhibited in the 1976 Walker show ‘Sculpture Made in Place’ and try to keep up with the Walker’s activities. The book show looks very interesting, and I thought I would alert you to my own, related, work The Long Scroll, an attempt to account for every day of my life from 1970 to the end of 2000. Good luck with the exhibition, and I’m sorry that I will not see it (tho’ your current weather , all by itself, might deter me).


  • s j leiber says:

    The Walker’s exhibition of artists’ books looks wonderful online. A shame I am not headed to Minn, MN.
    Two very minor corrections to the july 15 2008 interview by T-C of RF:
    1 Eugenia Butler not Cornelia Butler
    2 LA AIR not Clear Sky

  • Jamie says:

    i love book art!

  • Linley says:

    The books were very interesting. They show a lot of personal and different style with each artist. They were very creative and unique, never seen any books like these!!

  • L. Morrison says:

    The exhibition of artists’ books was great to look at. The combination of art created using existing books and books created artistically made for an interesting grouping. I only wish that it was possible to hold the books and look through them-having just one open page is frustrating!

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