Artists' Books and Bookworks

Though not without historical precedent, the rise of artists’ books (or  bookworks) as a distinct artistic form is related to the formal experimentation associated with twentieth-century avant-garde art movements. Artists’ books experiment with a range of characteristics including the physical form of the book, the visual conventions of the page, the experience of the reader, and traditional book production materials and methods. Despite the difficulty in defining “artists’ books,” they can be broadly characterized as original works of art that reflexively engage with the book form and its history, meaning, and identity. The collection of artists’ books in Bruce Peel Special Collections exemplifies diversity: the collection contains items that retain the traditional codex form but experiment with text and image conventions on the page, whereas other items take on the form of boxes of documents or sculptural works that challenge our most basic ideas of what a book is and what it should do. Though the collection of artists’ books in the Peel library contains items from the 1960s, the bulk of the collection dates from the 1980s to the present. The collection primarily focuses on Canadian artists, though artists from all over the world are represented. Of special note is the Home Museum Collection, which includes 379 artists’ books by many well-known artists from the 1960s to the 1980s. The collection was purchased from Frankie Brown, an artist living in Berkeley, California, who curated the collection between 1960 and 1985.

For video-views of a dozen artist's books, click here.

Collection Formats: 20th Century, 21st Century, Art Work, Artists Books, Books, Limited Edition Books, Specialty Bindings -- click to see other collections with this format