Book as Narrative Object

Guest Co-Curators: Karen Weeks and Rachel Singel

JUNE 1 – AUGUST 31, 2019
Reception: June 14th 5-7 pm; free & open to the public

Portland Museum presents a new book arts exhibition. Book as Narrative Object explores the structure of a book and how it influences — and possibly builds upon — a reader’s interpretation of the narrative. Among the items exhibited will be unique artist books on loan from Bridwell Art Library (University of Louisville). This exhibition and related events are part of the museum’s Book Arts program — which strives to enrich our community through engagement with Book Arts — and Book as Narrative Object examines the overlapping expansiveness of book and narrative.

Books are sites of meaning, narrative, and otherwise. They can trigger obsession, transform your life, linger in your memory, and even become the center of a group’s identity. Scholars and philosophers can ponder and pour over the contents, waging great debates. Books are made of materials that can disintegrate and be treasured or thrown away in equal measure. Like a living body, they are permeable and sensitive to the elements. All of these features are inherent to the book as an object, and artists working within the medium of book arts incorporate this historicity to varying ends. So, to that end, what exactly is an artist’s book?

As containers of narratives, artists working in the field of Book Arts will often use the structure of the book as part of the content, controlling the pacing of the story that is unfolding within the object. This can be observed in several artworks in the exhibition, from Ed Ruscha’s 1963 book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, to the more contemporary Women Dream by Elsi Vassdal Ellis.

This exhibition and related programming are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Louisville Metro Government.