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
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.