Class Spotlight: (re)Reading the Artists’ Book

A selection of work from the Flasch Collection. Photo from Flaxman Libary collection.

Chicago is an excellent city for book and paper arts. Obviously, we have our Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts Program and the Center for Book and Paper Arts. But we also have a slew of independent presses, the Newberry Library, and the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection. This last one is an absolutely fantastic resource. Contained in the collection are literally thousands of artists’ books spanning decades of work by so many different artists. As students in the Book and Paper program, we have the opportunity to take a class taught by Doro Boehme, the curator of the Flasch collection.

The class is an art history class and a studio class. Each week we go to the Flasch collection, receive a brief lecture, and then spend the rest of the class looking at artists’ books. We are then required to come up with a project proposal each week based on the books we looked at. We are moving through the history of artists’ books, starting with Dada and the Futurists and then heading into the more conceptual. Works we’ve looked at include those of Marcel Duchamp, Ed Ruscha, Christian Boltanski, and Sophie Calle.

Looking at these books through the lens of history and production has been really helpful. The approach to the artist book is so varied, and the form has served so many purposes from propaganda to more personal expression. This class is really reflective of the diverse approaches people take to making in our program. In Book & Paper, there is room for so many different perspectives and intentions.

Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations. Photo from the book Ed Ruscha: Photographer

I’ve spoken before about the accessibility of the larger book & paper community in Chicago, and I’m about to do it again! The B&P program makes it a point to engage its students in that outside community. Through classes like this and collaborative projects, we are always reaching outside of Columbia College Chicago to engage in dialogue with the larger craft and art world.

So, that’s something to look forward to, you future applicants out there!