Paper, Art & the Book


September 27 - December 7, 1996

Since the early 1970s there has been a small but bold renaissance in hand papermaking by artists and craftspersons who have discovered that this medium can powerfully enhance works of art, or be a work of art itself. Though paper has long been a standard material in books, only recently have artists begun to explore this material's extraordinary potential for transforming the expressive or narrative elements on the page.

This exhibition reveals the innovative ways artists utilize paper to express ideas conveyed in books and broadsides. Rather than viewing paper as merely a neutral substrate, many of these works employ unusual or evocative papers that integrate the medium's physical components -- fiber, watermark, decorative elements, weight and texture -- with the final work's text and image, or even guide the structure and intent of the book itself.

The craft of making paper by hand is evident in a number of works in this exhibition, as well as the traditional printmaking techniques that have complemented fine papers for centuries, including letterpress printing, woodblock, photo transfers and drypoint. Paper's service to contemporary art is far from exhausted. Some artists have created solid, sculptural elements from neutral or colored pulp, or incorporated objects like string or sea shells to express the particular aesthetics of a work. Other artists have used airy, translucent papers in their books which provide an unusual interplay of light and dark, or juxtaposed a variety of papers as if to manifest an interaction among the individual pages.

But there is also an appreciation for more commonplace papers that have been appropriated to a new effect. Some of the artists have utilized paper bags, Polish newspapers, pages from old Bibles, or even children's coloring books. These works often include commercially-produced acidic papers that self-destruct in a few short years, yet there is a beauty even in these brown, crumbling pages that suggest the passage of time. Paper becomes both foreground and background here.

In all the works in this exhibition, paper is a form of tangible memory, and demonstrates human efforts to convert the products of this earth into a medium for expressing the thoughts of one person to another, one generation to those who will follow.

Brian Hannon
Executive Director