Bulletin #8: Black (Art) History Month
February 23, 2021
This month Booklyn joins the national celebration of the immense contributions of Black Americans to our culture. To this end, we’ve added a new subject section in our catalog: Black History / Black Futures.
Like all great artists’ work, CUBA’s (Clarence Robbs), David C. Driskell’s, and David Hammons’ artwork both fulfills and transcends their identities, while also being infused with the power of their specific histories as Black Americans. All three have made critically important contributions to American life and global culture. Their work has expanded the paradigm of what is validated as “Art”, and “Artists’ Books” in different ways, while also presenting critical perspectives that challenge and dismantle White Supremacist aesthetics that dominate western culture.
Effective anti-racist pedagogy in the field of artists’ books today would benefit from several teaching strategies: re-contextualizing book culture beyond Euro-centric history, amplifying work by under-represented communities, and prioritizing activist work that engages in decolonization. The books noted in this Bulletin are well suited to support these strategies.
Nurse’s Qur’an (Mushaf al-Hadina) ca. C.E. 1020
Imagine (Cuba, AKA Clarence Robbs) ca. C.E. 2020
Cuba’s books are a contemporary cultural bridge between African and Islamic collections that have profoundly impacted our cultural legacy. Cuba’s accomplished use of graffiti-style letter-forms as vehicles for literature challenges the privileging of the Euro-centric typographical traditions that primarily valorize the mechanically printed book while diminishing the importance of the illuminated manuscripts of artists like Cuba or the conceptual book works of David Hammons.
Students traverse urban environments saturated with graffiti letterforms that originate from the cultures of people of color, then enter classrooms where the lauded type work by white artists (Nazi collaborators, such as Hermann Zapf and Rudolf Koch among them) are presented as the standard of aesthetic excellence in the field. Anti-racist pedagogy explicitly dismantles the complicity of the curricula in maintaining normalized, and white-washed historical narratives and pedagogical conventions. A balanced curriculum can be presented to our students and the public by revealing the lesser visible histories of both BIPOC achievement and White Supremacist aesthetics.
We’ll be spotlighting artists’ books by BIPOC artists at the Printed Matter Virtual Art Book Fair (Feb. 24-28). I will also be doing another of my endurance performances—a 72 hour-long, non-stop reading of artists’ books and zines by Booklyn artists. This will be live-streamed exclusively at booklyn.pmvabf.org/ from noon on February 25 to noon on February 28.
See you there!
IMAGINE, 2019, Cuba (AKA Clarence Robbs), San Francisco, unique, acrylic, marker pen, 2,800 USD.
We are happy to present two new unique illuminated manuscripts by Cuba (AKA Clarence Robbs) one of the most respected graffiti ‘writers’ in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Imagine is another amazing chapter out of San Francisco‘s “graffiti godfather” Cuba’s never-ending super sketchbook of graffiti masterpieces. Functioning as both a daily/weekly diary of current events and a style-book of letterforms. The book is framed with a smooth ‘peek-a-boo’ binding by Sophia Kramer of White Iris books who has been binding Cuba’s for over a decade.
The Past is Cold, 2018, Cuba (AKA Clarence Robbs), Marshall Weber, San Francisco, unique, acrylic, marker pen, 3,200 USD.
Though Cuba’s books stand alone in terms of their dynamic calligraphy, they are solidly within the aesthetic legacy of various African and Arabic calligraphic traditions.
The Past is Cold is a collaboration between Cuba and artist/poet Marshall Weber with screen-prints by Ganzeer, David Sandlin and Christian Gfeller/Anna Hellsgard, etchings by Aaron Noble (printed with Peter Pettengill at Windgate Studios in New Hampshire) and Marshall Weber (with the accomplished printer Michael Kempson at Cicada Press in Sydney, Australia), an experimental Suminagashi print by Sto Len, and a woodcut by Raoul Deal. This survey of print media by print world heroes provides a dynamic substrate for Cuba’s elaborate lettering of an apocalyptic poem by Weber. This unique book is a vibrant example of the dozens of graffiti poetry books Cuba and Weber have produced over the past decade.
Booklyn is honored to present two rare and important
artists’ books by two artists whose work shifted the paradigm
of artistic practice and art history into more critical
and inclusive modalities.
Global Fax Festival, 2000, David Hammons, New York, signed edition of twenty, CD, facsimile, offset, 4,800 USD.
“…Hammons has fiercely guarded his status as a cultural outsider, while simultaneously continuing to produce work that reinforces his reputation as one of the most relevant and influential living American artists.” – Laura Hoptman, MoMA, Curator, Painting & Sculpture
This is an extremely rare, signed, copy of Global Fax Festival, an artists’ book/box set that documents a conceptual/performance/installation of the same name by David Hammons at the Crystal Palace in Madrid. Hammons only signed 20 of these pieces (from an estimated edition of 200). A plastic folding enclosure printed in red and black, glossy wraps exhibition catalogue, contains the signed exhibition catalogue a DVD (which documents both a live musical performance by American composer Butch Morris during the event and the event in general), a large format poster and a pamphlet about the event (which also requests participation) and 600 of the original faxes from around the world created at the event. Thus the resulting box set embodies more than just the documentation of the event but is actually a part of it, a globally assembled artists’ book formed within an elegant interactive installation.
A World Made of Memories, History, and Art, 2015, David C Driskell, edition 30, inkjet, linocut prints, 8,800 USD
An exceptionally rare and exhilarating introduction to the work of acclaimed artist and curator David C. Driskell featuring 3 original linocuts created for this publication by Driskell, framed by lush inkjet reproductions from some of Driskell’s paintings and excerpts from an intimate interview regarding his life with Ananda Holton. Conceived by Glee Holton, and printed by Jase Clark, Curlee R. Holton and MaryAnn L. Miller at Raven Prints Fine Editions in Easton, PA, the book unfolds as a triptych with the linocut prints tucked into pockets formed by the inkjet prints.
Driskell is an important figure in the world of African American arts, known as one of the first advocates for and a leading expert and collector in the field of contemporary African American visual artists. Driskell died from the Covid 19 Coronavirus in April of 2020, another tragedy for the Black American community (which has and continues to be catastrophically impacted by the Covid 19 virus and the issues of medical racism that surround the disease in the USA) and the art world.
During his seven-decade career as an art historian and curator, Driskell made contributions that are considered foundational to the field of African American Art. He curated over 35 exhibitions of work by black artists, including Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett. In 1976, Driskell mounted Two Centuries of Black American Art for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which was the highest-profile exhibition of its kind at a major U.S. museum, and according to ARTnews, “staked a claim for the profound and indelible contributions of black and African American art-makers since the earliest days of the country.” He is featured in the 2021 documentary film Black Art: In the Absence of Light.
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