Books provide a sensory experience for both the maker and the reader. An old book can feel and even smell like history, its papers and covers old and crackling. Illustrations help readers envision the story in a certain way, and careers have been made by artists who memorably marry content with image, fostering followings among consumers who are as interested in the art of the book as they are in the text.
Bindings are also an integral part of a book, and there is a plethora of options to create visual enjoyment. From accordion to flexagon folds, a venetian-blind structure to a flag book, to the humble perfect bind, the possibilities seem endless.
A book often comes with a cover by which you can judge it, not to mention beautiful papers and typefaces. The choices—and the results—provide visual stimulus for everyone. The idea of what constitutes a “book” has evolved over the centuries and, as can be seen here, is only limited by the imagination of the maker.
This exhibition examines a range of artists’ books from the permanent collection of the Johnson Museum and on loan from local artists, with a special selection from the collection of Phyllis Goody Cohen, Class of 1957, printmaker, book artist, and collector, to whom we dedicate this show.
This exhibition was curated by Nancy E. Green, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints & Drawings, 1800–1945, at the Johnson, and on view in conjunction with her summer Cornell’s Adult University (CAU) course, “The History and Art of Making Books: A Sensory Experience.”