Artists' Books from Arizona State University


 A Selection of Books from the Pyracantha Press, Cabbagehead Press

and the ASU Book Arts Program

January - April 2001



Click on any image to view selections from the exhibition

ALTHOUGH no single definition can encompass their variety and scope, it is probably safe to say that every artist's book is a book that calls attention to itself as an object imagined and created from paper, leather, board, ink, movable type, reproducible or unique images, and limitless other materials. And although the artist's book--just like any other book--can communicate words and images, it can also convey its total character as, at once, a vehicle of textual, pictorial, graphic, and plastic expression.

Among American universities, one of the liveliest centers for artists' books is at the Department of Art at Arizona State University--home of the Pyracantha Press. Initially founded in 1982 as the production and research imprint of the ASU Art department, the Pyracantha Press is today a thriving professional operation, undertaking book arts projects that reflect special literary accomplishment, that embody visual or technical research, or that exemplify significant collaborations between writers and artists. Under the innovative direction of ASU Art Professor John Risseeuw, Pyracantha Press has earned a reputation for high-quality books fashioned by a production team that includes Risseeuw, staff printer and press-shop manager Dan Mayer, and graduate student research assistants.

Although this exhibition presents books bearing the Pyracantha Press imprint, it also seeks to communicate something of the artistic environment that envelopes the Pyracantha Press. Thus, the exhibition also includes works by ASU Art department students as well as several works from the Cabbagehead Press. The Cabbagehead Press is Risseeuw's personal imprint, which he reserves for the production of his own books, broadsides, and prints.

As the items displayed in this case and throughout the exhibition suggest, artists' books can be daring, playful, inventive, or handsome in form. Their content can be socially and environmentally conscientious. But all of them challenge our definitions of the book and the conventions governing book production. All extend the boundaries of what a book can be.

Special Collections is fortunate for the loan of these materials. Our thanks go to John Risseeuw, his colleagues at the Pyracantha Press, and the book arts students whose imaginations are on display here.


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 Petroglyph imagery used courtesy of Rocky Mountain Clip Art