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Special Collections & University Archives

Things that Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists' Books | Cosas que Sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneos

Artist, calligrapher, and binder collaborate to honor poets Neruda, García Lorca with series of unique artists’ books

The Stanford University Libraries' Department of Special Collections presents an exhibition of contemporary calligraphic artists' books featuring poetry by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca, drawings by Manuel Neri, calligraphy by Thomas Ingmire, and bindings by Daniel Kelm. Things that Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists' Books / Cosas que sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneos will open Thursday, April 19, in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda on the second floor of the Bing Wing of Green Library, Stanford University. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The one-of-a-kind handmade books on display are the product of a five-year collaboration conceived by longtime creative partners Manuel Neri, a highly-respected Bay Area figurative artist best known as a sculptor, and Mary Julia Klimenko, Neri's primary model for close to four decades. In the early 1970s Klimenko, herself a poet, began the practice of reading poetry aloud to Neri as he worked, favoring the work of Spanish-language poets, among them Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca. As the 2004 centennial of Neruda's birth approached, the pair--who had already produced three fine press limited-edition books together featuring Neri's artwork and Klimenko's poetry--conceived the idea to produce a tribute to Neruda. Esteemed calligrapher Thomas Ingmire and master binder Daniel Kelm joined the creative team to produce Oda a la bella desnuda Ode to a Beautiful Nude , a single poem hand-lettered in English and its original Spanish, accompanied by seven Neri drawings and bound by hand, in 2004. Over the next five years, fifteen more bilingual books would follow, six additional volumes using Neruda's poems, and nine based on poetry by García Lorca.

The resulting body of work is a testament to the rebirth of the one-of-a-kind handmade book. Before the advent of print in the West, manuscripts were the book, defined by densely penned text and rich but space-conserving embellishment. The Neri/Ingmire/Kelm collaboration belongs to the genre of art: contemporary manuscripts, rendered in expressive and spare calligraphy carefully considered to honor the poetry and visually converse with the drawings chosen to accompany each volume. In each of the luxurious large-format volumes, every visual and structural element serves the whole, including the decorative leather-covered bindings, designed and constructed so that the books open completely flat for viewing. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view the collective body of work; twelve of the sixteen books are shown together with studies, practice sheets, cover mockups, and photographs documenting the processes of their creation.

All sixteen volumes have been digitized, and weekday visitors to the exhibition gallery will be able to check out iPads® loaded with the digital page spreads as well as supplemental material about the artists. In addition, an illustrated catalogue of the project, Things that Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists' Books / Cosas que sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneos printed in full color and featuring an extensive essay by Bruce Nixon together with shorter texts by Mark Dimunation, Joseph Goldyne, Michael Keller, Roberto Trujillo, and Steve Woodall, is available for purchase at https://library.stanford.edu/spc/exhibitspublications/catalogs.

Exhibit cases are illuminated Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The gallery is accessible whenever Green Library is open; hours vary with the academic schedule. To confirm library hours, call 650-723-0931 or go to http://library.stanford.edu/hours.

NOTE: first-time visitors must register at the south entrance portal to Green Library's East Wing to gain access to the exhibition in the Bing (west) Wing. For a map of campus and transportation information, go to http://www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo/plan/maps.html.