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Recent Acquisitions in American Art
Fall 2014-Winter 2015
Even a world-class research collection holds little value if it is not used.
When we purchase titles for the Art & Architecture Library’s Locked Stacks Collection, we try to imagine the ways in which they will be incorporated into the curriculum, inspire research papers, and influence new works of art. It was in this spirit that we conceived the current exhibition.
The recent acquisitions in American art on display are valuable additions to our collection of primary source materials. They augment our holdings in twentieth-century photography, mid-century design, contemporary artists’ books, documentary film, and pop art. But even more importantly, the items in the cases each struck a chord with a student or faculty member in the Department of Art & Art History. For a few moments, these books became part of a partnership of thought. The descriptions and opinions and poems that now rest alongside the books are the tangible results.
Special thanks to our contributors: Mackenzie Crist, Heather Glenny, Nick Hoversten, Katie Keller, George Philip LeBourdais, Jamie Meltzer, Alexander Nemerov, and Sydney Skelton Simon.
Testing the Boundaries: Wendingen 1918-1932
The beautifully designed issues of Wendingen, a Dutch art and architecture journal published between 1918 and 1932, were dedicated to investigating and expanding the boundaries of architecture.The journal, the title of which translates to “twists” or “turnings,” originated in the intellectual climate that followed World War I, when the nationalism that led in its extreme form to war was exchanged by artists and architects for a spirit of collective intellectual energy. A journal that would showcase both art and architecture, of both Dutch and international origin, was the idea of Wendingen’s editor H. Th. Wijdeveld, a Dutch architect associated with the Amsterdam architectural society, Architectura et Amicitia. One-hundred and sixteen issues ofWendingen, each devoted to a specific topic, were published and distributed inside the Netherlands and abroad. This exhibition examines the diverse visual styles of Wendingen’s covers, its varied content, and its extensive coverage of Frank Lloyd Wright to demonstrate the journal’s devotion to discovering the fullest realization of built form.
Today, almost a century after the publication of the journal’s first issue, architecture is faced with the facets of the digital realm. The question Wijdeveld sought to answer with Wendingen--how architecture might evolve to engage and encompass other disciplines and inhabit new media--is now a relevant question again.
Intaglio: The Art of Incision
Intaglio is a term used in printmaking to describe a method in which ink is held in incised grooves on a metal (usually copper or zinc) plate. When the plate is run through a press, the ink in the grooves is transferred to paper. Because these grooves can be created at different depths, the printed lines can vary in thickness and intensity. Printing an intaglio plate requires two conditions: a rolling press that can apply great pressure, and damp, pliable paper that can reach into the grooves when that pressure is applied. While the process of printing intaglio is always essentially the same, there are numerous methods for creating a plate.
This exhibition uses examples from the Art & Architecture Library’s Locked Stacks Collection to illustrate some of these intaglio techniques. The books range in age from five to 400 years and in size from octavo to double folio—details that themselves demonstrate the vast range of this enduring printmaking form.
To Place: Roni Horn's Iceland
To Place, by the visual artist Roni Horn, is a series of ten titles focused upon Iceland and Horn’s relationship to it. It is an open series with no pre-determined end point, and while the set constitutes what Horn describes as an encyclopedia, the subjects treated and the flow from one volume to the next are idiosyncratic rather than systematic. The “to” in the title activates “place” into a verb rather than a noun; the progression of the books suggests the artist’s evolving process of placing herself in the place that is Iceland, the artist and the volcanic geology of Iceland both perpetually becoming.
Cabinet of Wonders: A Contemporary Kunstkammer
Fall 2012-Winter 2013
In the middle of the sixteenth century, in the heart of a European Renaissance, royalty and nobility from Italy to Russia to the Netherlands began assembling collections of rarities in specially appointed rooms and cabinets. These collections, variously called Kunstkammern, Wunderkammern, and Kunstschränke were, essentially, nascent art and natural history museums, attempts at encyclopedic assemblages of historically, culturally, geographically, zoologically, and artistically significant specimens. This exhibition aims to recreate the aesthetic sensibility of a sixteenth- and early-seventeenth century Kunstkammer while also describing the specific types of materials that these rooms and cabinets contained. The objects themselves, taken from the Art & Architecture Library's Locked Stacks Collection, are of widely divergent ages and origins; together they form an idiosyncratic, present-day cabinet of wonders.
Carved in StoneIn Chinese culture, rubbings are seen as more than mere copies; since each one is unique they are seen as works of art in their own right. There are several names for rubbings in Chinese, but they are commonly referred to as “Black Tigers” (hei laohu ???) by collectors and connoisseurs because of their color and because of the number of fraudulent rubbings on the market that can “bite” an unsuspecting buyer. The technique of making ink rubbings of stone and metal inscriptions is believed to have originated in China by the Liang Dynasty (502-556 C.E.) but perhaps as early as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E-220 C.E.). The works shown in this exhibition are all rubbings taken from stelae, vertical stone monuments usually engraved with writings.
Summer 2011-Winter 2012
More Than Robert Frank's The Americans:
American Photography in 1960
Subject of the major traveling exhibition, “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans,” and unanimously acknowledged today as a masterpiece of photobook publishing, Robert Frank’s The Americans occupies a privileged position in the history of photography. The communal adulation that Frank’s book now receives justly celebrates this masterwork of picture making, editing, and sequencing. The 506 page catalog for the 2009 “Looking In” exhibition is a scholar’s delight of detail on Frank and the The Americans. Yet the sum effect of this recent attention may actually diminish our ability to perceive the book’s relative position within the larger culture of American photography at the time of its appearance in January 1960. We assume that the considerable influence of Frank’s The Americans today was also broadly shared in 1960, that the book’s impact was immediate and overshadowed all else in American photographic culture. Actually, whileThe Americans was a bombshell in some quarters, it caused barely a stir in others. The range of photographic practices under consideration by American photographers in the late 1950s and early 1960s was remarkably diverse. It is this array of practice, and the possible role of The Americans within that array, which is the subject of this exhibition.
Selections from the Helen and Newton Harrison Papers
In 2010 the Stanford University Libraries purchased the archives of Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison. Within the 170 linear feet of boxes lie the records of four decades of production, from the earliest works of the 1970s to the works-in-progress of the past few years. Materials include documentary photographs and slides, audio tapes, correspondence, notebooks, blueprints, financial records, grant proposals, newspaper clippings, exhibition catalogs, and computer equipment.
The items on display in the four exhibition cases represent a small fraction of the archive. Drawn from the records pertaining to four separate projects, they provide a glimpse of the Harrisons’ working processes and the environment in which each project was conceived and created.
Sanaz Mazinani undertook her series Book Case (2004-2007) as a response to the looting of archives and museums in Baghdad at the start of the war in Iraq. Artifacts and written records were disappearing, and most if not all were irreplaceable. In her own studio, Mazinani had been collecting books she had found on the street or otherwise abandoned. They were not rare books—certainly not the recorded history of a nation—but they had their own hazy histories nonetheless, as works of literature, as aesthetic objects, and as bearers of unknown provenance.
The tremendous loss of material culture in Iraq was much more urgent than the loss of any single copy of any single mass-produced publication, but still, to Mazinani, there was something both foreboding and enlightening about an abandoned book. She began creating images of the covers of the books she collected, making them larger than life-size in order to reveal new details and heighten their objective presence.
Printmaking from Tama Art University
Donated to Stanford’s Art & Architecture Library by Professor Tatsumasa Watanabe of Tama Art University, Tokyo, the prints in this exhibition were created by graduating students from TAU’s Graduate and Undergraduate Printmaking Courses from the 2008–2009 academic year (April 2008–March 2009). Founded in 1935 as the Tama Imperial Art School (Kaminoge, Tokyo) and renamed as the Tama Geijutsu Gakuen (Tama School of Art) in 1954, Tama Art University is one of only a few Japanese art universities which offer a full printmaking course from the first year. The aim of the Printmaking Course is to provide students with a broad range of practical and theoretical knowledge on which to base their research. In the first-year basic curriculum, students learn a wide range of techniques, including woodblock printing, wood-engraving, etching, mezzotint, drypoint, lithography, woodcut lithography, silkscreen, and digital printing. In the remainder of the course, students focus on one branch of printmaking and develop their own expressive approach. In the graduate program students are encouraged to experiment with non-printmaking techniques.
We wish to acknowledge the efforts of Reiko Oshimo and Nancy Nussbaum of the College Women’s Association of Japan, who serve as Co-Chairs for the CWAJ Print Show, Sally Porter, and Nancy Ferguson, Cantor Arts Center, who helped make this gift possible—with special thanks and appreciation to Professor Tatsumasa Watanabe and the students of Tama Art University.
Naoko Matsubara: The Solitude Portfolio
Now a resident of Oakville, Ontario, the woodcut artist Naoko Matsubara (b. 1937) was born on the island of Shikoku in Japan and was raised in the Shinto tradition. She trained in the fine arts in both Japan and the United States, first coming to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 1960 and staying to teach at the Pratt Institute and the University of Rhode Island. Not long after producing the Solitude portfolio, Matsubara moved to Canada, where she has continued to produce woodcuts and illustrated books. Her works are in the collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of the Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, and the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art. Matsubara’s artistic influences include traditional Japanese prints (17th–20th-century ukiyo-e prints being the most well known in the West) as well as—especially due to her studio assistantship in the 1960s with German illustrator Fritz Eichenberg—the stark woodcuts of German Expressionism.
Matsubara was selected to illustrate the 1971 Aquarius Press edition of Henry David Thoreau’s fifth chapter of Walden because, according to the editors, her “philosophy of life and language of artistic expression exemplify the same forceful individuality and inner strength of the Thoreau text.” All of the prints from the portfolio are on display, along with excerpts from Thoreau’s chapter.
Historical and Contemporary Representations of Costume and Fashion
Fall 2009-Winter 2010
Clothing is relatively inexpressive on a hanger. It can hint at its conceived form and utility; it can suggest its potential for movement. But it is not until a garment is viewable in four dimensions, supported by a body and moving through space, that it is truly activated. Studying clothing is therefore a complicated task, as it often requires one to imagine movement or to mentally add volume to a limp structure.There are times when two dimensions can help in this task. Fashion, or costume, illustration is a centuries-old genre that has always been utilized for a specific, though evolving, purpose: to animate representationally that which cannot be animated physically. This exhibition is an attempt to demonstrate the ways in which artists have undertaken this illustration (or, more recently, photography), and to trace the contexts in which they worked. The items on display range from historical costume books to Parisian fashion plate portfolios to designs for the ballet; from glossy magazine page spreads to, finally, contemporary visual critiques of the genre itself.
Elements of Interpretation:
Intersections Between Archaeological Fragments, Art, and Audience
In their encounter with the remains of antiquity, European writers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were most concerned with, sought out, and recorded those objects that they believed held aesthetic value. These objects served as markers of taste and distinction for Europe’s elites, either in their suitability for inclusion in private collections or as inspiration for new art that evoked the classical past. In the last two centuries, with the emergence of the professional archaeologist, new agendas opened up that focused on the antique fragment. Today, the kinds of data that archaeologists deem worthy of inclusion in a standard archaeological report have diversified and multiplied with the availability of new analytic techniques. Objects of specifically aesthetic interest must share time with other site data—for example, the different stratigraphic layers of soil deposits. There is the (often explicitly stated) aim of capturing all the available data from a site, no matter how apparently trivial. This has become all the more important for archaeologists with the relatively recent realization (or emphasis on the realization) that they can never repeat the excavation of a site and that discarded data cannot be recovered. Once lost, data is lost forever. Yet no matter how meticulous an observer he or she aims to be, the archaeologist must still make decisions about what does or does not merit recording and portraying in the final publication.
The visual examples in this exhibition, chosen from texts in the Art & Architecture Library’s Locked Stack collection, illustrate the field’s evolving approach to representing the past’s fragmentary remains. Although the exhibition casts light on the fragment’s transformation from art piece or aesthetic ruin to a more ascetic archaeological object, it does not map a linear narrative of the development of a “true and correct archaeology.” Several of the oldest texts here display an almost unparalleled concern for technical accuracy. As a whole, the books collected reveal a number of influences on representational form, especially the interests and agendas of professional archaeologists compared and contrasted with the expectations and requirements of other audiences.
[De]Code: Images and Their StructuresHow do we decode the images that we see? For example, when we look at an image, how do we distinguish an object from the space surrounding it? How do we know whether the image depicts a part or a whole? How do we infer its temporality? By what means do we interpret its scale?
Fall 2008-Winter 2009
This exhibition gathers together books filled with images that ask these questions and, in some cases, force viewers to test their own presumed answers. The featured works refer out to the world and into themselves, each functioning both representationally and self-referentially. These thirteen books comprise a view into systems of image-making and image-reception that is less comprehensive than it is exemplary; less scientific than it is anecdotal. Yet this arrangement of disparate materials helps to elucidate a truly fundamental concept: the images we encounter can never be neutral.
Collection Highlights I: Collaborations
It is rare to come across a publication that is not a collaboration of some sort. Editors help writers to shape their texts; designers direct page layout; colleagues compose introductions. The collaborations that we have in mind in organizing this exhibition, however, are ones in which various parties have conceptually partnered in order to create original content that forms, if not a single, unified entity, at the very least a packaged merger of shared and evolved aspirations. A project undertaken by multiple participants (painters or poets, calligraphers or critics) is often deemed experimental, or at least unusual. In any case, it is an opportunity for the juxtaposition of media or styles in ways that might not occur to or be possible for any single artist.
Within the fine arts, the book format seems especially welcoming of such collaboration. The book’s ability to perform as its own, compact container allows for it to facilitate unity in unique ways. The two dimensional page provides a venue for the melding of text and image forms; multiple sequential surfaces accommodate both static and temporal themes. Every turning of a page allows for a fresh development, while building on preceding experience and anticipating future turnings. Ultimately, each viewing of a piece results in a new collaboration, as individual readers appreciate and engage with the original collaborative project in their own manner.
Revues: Vues Rares
Fall 2007-Spring 2008
The Art & Architecture Library recently purchased the three Parisian journal titles featured in this exhibition—Le Coq (subsequently titledLe Coq Parisien) (1920), Les Réverbères (1938-39), and Néon (1948-49)—in honor of Alex Ross on his retirement after 32 years of service as Library Head. The richness of the Library’s collection is due primarily to Alex’s superb skills as a bibliographer and his extensive knowledge of art history.
The journals’ editors and contributors included the Dadaist and Surrealist luminaries Tristan Tzara, Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, and André Breton. This exhibition’s juxtaposition of these rare ephemera reveals the idiosyncratic atmosphere of Parisian avant-garde design and publication over three decades, illuminates the often conflictual manifestations of these politically activist movements, and foregrounds the commitment of the journals’ producers to a revision of art’s form, purpose, and value.