Experiments in Navigation: The Art of Charles Hobson

Exhibition Explores Making of Artist's Books at Two Venues on Stanford University Campus


Charles Hobson

"Perseus," a.p. from Andromeda Imagined, 1998

Pastel drawing reproduced as digital print, with Hevelius engraving

15 x 10 inches 

Courtesy of the artist

Stanford, California -- The Stanford University Libraries and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University present the exhibition "Experiments in Navigation: The Art of Charles Hobson," which opens at two locations on campus April 30. Hobson's work explores themes of classical mythology, astronomy, surrealism, shipwrecks, and love affairs of famous historical figures, among other topics, through the medium of the artist's book.

Hobson earned a law degree and worked in the legal field for 20 years before completing a B.A. in fine art at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. He began publishing his own limited edition artist's books in 1988. In May 2007, Hobson donated his extensive archive of design and production materials related to the 30 books he has produced over the past two decades to the Stanford Libraries' Special Collections. This archive supplements the libraries' complete collection of his published works and illuminates his creative process -- from concept through physical design and implementation to finished book -- through research notes, studies, proofs, prototypes, patterns and jigs, and correspondence with authors and fellow artists with whom he has collaborated. The exhibition presents Hobson's art and artistic process, with a different focus at each of two locations.

In Green Library's Peterson Gallery through August 17, fourteen of Hobson's   books, among them Flaubert & Louise: Letters and Impressions (1988), Leonardo Knows Baseball (1990), Clouds and Dreams (1995), and Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes (2002), are on view in 20 cases with related materials from the archive, accompanied by labels explaining how Hobson conceived and developed each book idea using both hand processes and digital technology. "The 'big idea' which is the subject of an artist's book," Hobson commented, "depends on a host of small ideas that present themselves in unexpected ways, often sparked by the materials and the techniques that reach one's hands."

In the Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery at the Cantor Arts Center through July 6, 2008, four of Hobson's books are displayed with larger works on paper that he created in conjunction with each book. Parisian Encounters (1994), Andromeda Imagined (1998), Writing on the Body (1999), and The Writer (2004) are shown along with monoprints, photogravures, drawings, and collages.

May Castleberry, editor of a series of books by artists for the Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., writes of his work, "Hobson explores the tactility and three-dimensionality of the book in ways that few other artists have. He creates unexpected and interactive book structures -- accordion folds, concertinas, double bindings, cutouts, and hybrids of these forms. These structures usually echo and articulate the two-dimensional visual as well as the narrative content of each book."

The exhibition is made possible by the Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections and the Lynn Krywick Gibbons Exhibitions Fund.

Artist's Lecture Charles Hobson, "Cultivating Artists' Books" Thursday, May 29, at 4:15 p.m. Cantor Arts Center auditorium. Open seating. Free admission.

Exhibition Catalogue A color catalogue is available for sale in the Cantor Arts Center Bookshop and the Special Collections Reading Room, Green Library Bing Wing. Ordering information at: 

Green Library Viewing Exhibit cases in the Peterson Gallery, Green Library Bing Wing (2nd floor) are illuminated Monday-Friday 10:00 am-6:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am-5:00 pm; Sunday 1:00-6:00 pm. Peterson Gallery is accessible when Green Library is open; hours vary with the academic schedule. For library hours, call 650-723-0931. NOTE: first-time visitors must register at the east entrance portal to gain access to the library. Free Admission

Cantor Arts Center Viewing Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am-5 pm, Thursday until 8:00 pm. The Center is located off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Free Admission. Information: 650-723-4177.

Campus parking is free weekends and after 4:00 pm weekdays, except in areas explicitly marked otherwise.

April 30 - August 17, 2008 at Green Library 

April 30 - July 6, 2008 at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts

Charles Hobson

"Dancer" from Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes, 2002

Monotype reproduced as digital print with pastel and feather. 
5 ½ x 4 ¼ inches

Stanford University Libraries