Book Arts

An exhibition hosted by Bower Ashton Library, Bristol, UK

Prima Facie

Thursday 8th July – Tues 31st August 2021*

Curated by Amir Brito Cadôr

This exhibition was made using as criterion for selection; the books’ covers and the first impression caused by them, as indicated in the Italian expression taken as title for this show, prima facie which translates as “at first sight”. It’s part of an ongoing investigation about the main characteristics of artists’ books covers and presents a typology, its uses and functions (mute, ironic or enigmatic covers).

There are 16 pieces of information that can appear on the cover of an ordinary book, but all possibilities were never explored at the same time. The only practically mandatory mentions are the author’s name, title of the work and the publisher. In the case of artists’ books, which are mostly self-published, the latter information does not usually appear on the cover, a practice that was maintained even when they were published by a major commercial publisher (maybe because the book is also a work of art and the cover is an integral part of the art object). Usually, only the author’s name and title remained as information. Perhaps for the sake of modesty, the author’s name does not always appear on the cover (in some cases, it is necessary to look for it elsewhere in the book). Unlike literary works, in which the more famous the author is, the greater their name on the cover, in artists’ books the absence of this information on the cover may indicate that the work is more important than the author. Thus, the title has become the predominant element on the covers of many artists’ books.

The typographic cover is the most common type among artists’ books maybe because it does not reveal the contents of the book. Another reason for this predominance of typographic covers is that the title of the work plays an important role in some books, so they are presented with great care. Some examples with text display fonts and some book covers made with handwritten texts were selected Special attention was given to the image and text relationship, sometimes the text is presented as image and sometimes it is inside an image. Some of them mimic commercial book covers and some of them make a parody of an entire genre. Interestingly, there are many artists’ books that are self-referring, or metalinguistic, but there are not many artists’ books with the image of a book on the cover. We can find examples of unique covers within the print run and covers that change with each new edition and other types of cover variations for the same book. Anything could be used as theme for an artist’s book, even book covers. As the author of the book and the author of the cover is usually the same person, some books have a narrative that begins on the cover, a demonstration that every aspect of the book counts for the evaluation of the artist’s book.

Selected books for the exhibition from the ABPP archive:
10 significant train journeys, Imi Maufe, 2004
A 4 Hour Walk on Every Road in the Southville Residents’ Parking Scheme, Tom Sowden, 2016
AGREE TO DISAGREE, Guy Bigland, 2020
Another picture of me as Dracula, Ludovic Burel, 2007
Closure, Sarah Bodman, 2009
Cover Version, Jonathan Monk, Book Works, 2004
Decimals of feelings, seekers of lice, 2008
Fresh Fruit and Tables, David Bellingham, The Changing Room, 2008
Grab The Uranium, Craig Atkinson, Art Prison No.3, Knust Work Holidays Series, 2011
How to sharpen pencils, David Rees, 2012
Light Bound: A Love Affair Between Books and Light, Sara Ranchouse Publishing, 2004
Make, Katherine Johnson, 2008
MIM, Helen Douglas and Telfer Stokes, Weproductions, 1986
New Machines Coming Soon, Chris Lloyd, kitbooks, 2017
Paragraph, Colin Sackett, 1998
Pink Paper, Mark Pawson, 2004
Songs of Birds Wearing Safety Gear, Bill Burns, Plug in Editions, 2000
The book as the future of the past, Franziska Brandt & Moritz Grünke, Gloria Glitzer, 2015
tweak, tweaked, tweet, Louise Jennison, 2009
The Theatre of Nature: or Curiosity Filled the Cabinet, Angela Lorenz, 2002
Typewriter Manual Volume 2, Sara Mackillop, 2013
Unprocessed, Roelof Bakker, 2020
Utopia by Thomas Moore, Jeremy Deller & Fraser Muggeridge studio, Somerset House, 2016
We Are Small, Elisabeth Tonnard, 2012
We go to the gallery, Dung Beetle Reading Scheme, M Elia & E Elia, 2015
Where in the world?, Hazel Grainger, 2012
White Heat, Stephen Fowler, 2010
Who I am and What I Want, David Shrigley, Redstone Press, 2006
Why Publish Noise?, Miekal And, 66, 2020
WOW BOW WOW WOW, Jeremy Dixon, Hazard Press, 2014

Amir Brito Cadôr
Escola de Belas Artes, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Coleção Livro de Artista

*Due to social distancing measures we cannot currently welcome visitors. We will be sharing the books with the public online via UWE Bristol Library’s Twitter feed. Up to date info can be found here.

UWE Bristol, City Campus at Bower Ashton, Kennel Lodge Road, Bristol BS3 2JT.