July 21 – July 30, 2015
“Rather than reach definitive conclusions, Women’s Autobiographical Artists’ Books stands as a testament to the basic tenet of feminism—that the lives and issues of women are worthy and vital subjects for art-making.”
—Zwehl-Burke and Fedorchuk
Artists make work. They use paint, wood, pens, cardboard; they have studio spaces, they render on the computer, they work in their bedrooms, they collage; they make sculptures, paintings, films, drawings, performance; they can have an art show in a gallery, they can have a website. Artists also make books.
As an artist and a publisher, Antonia Pinter is immersed in both these worlds. She makes works on paper and makes sculpture. She has published two artist books of her own and has been the publisher of dozens of individual or collective artists’ books. At her work at Publication Studio, which involves working with writers and artists to realize a book into both digital and print form, the first question she asks any artist looking to make a book is, “Why do you want to make a book?” This isn’t a pragmatic, professional inquiry—she is genuinely interested in having conversations with artists about why “artist book?”
Rather than thinking about the artist book as an alternative exhibition space, or the artist book’s role, Pinter’s interest lies in how women artists extend their work and their individual narratives into a form that is as much about content as it is about usefulness and beauty. The figure and the form (and figurative form) are points of interest both actually and conceptually. The impetus isn’t to “reach a definitive conclusion” about the position of artists’ books, or women artists in their field, but to find, read, and share the work that is currently being done in artist books by women along with the history of works that came before it.
Inspired by the exhibition catalog Women’s Autobiographical Artists’ Books (published in 1987 on the occasion of the exhibition at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Museum Fine Arts Galleries), Pinter is establishing a project that is directly influenced by the original curator’s intent: to consider the form of the artist book as a means for women artists to produce a physical, extended, or even new and experimental narrative of herself, to ask politically driven questions about a female position in the art world and in publishing, and to level the playing field in the predominantly male-heavy art world that typically cares for its own.
Looking at books about artist books, early activist ‘zines, self-published artist books that were made by hand (as alternatives to mainstream publish were difficult in past decades), Pinter will be exploring “in-between” books, marginal work, works considered ephemeral or even borderline artist books (works closer to poetics, for example) to create a new exhibition, a physical and digital archive, and an exhibition catalog on women’s autobiographical artists’ books.
Publication Studio, founded in 2009 in Portland, Oregon, makes and publishes original books on-demand, creating a public out of publication by engaging the social life of the book for pleasure alone. Co-founded by Patricia No, a writer, editor and publisher from New York and Antonia Pinter, an artist and publisher from Washington, Publication Studio collaborates to make and distribute books with numerous artists, writers, publishers, and institutions of all kinds.