An Exhibition at Yale University

Material Meets Metaphor: A Half Century of Book Art by Richard Minsky

August 2 through December 21, 2010

click here to order the limited edition catalog or download the free PDF edition

Richard Minsky, pioneering contemporary book artist and founder of the Center for Book Arts in New York City, is known for his conceptual approach to hand bookbinding and commitment to changing the perception of the book arts from craft to fine art. He combines a background in Economics with an innovative use of traditional methods and new materials to create sculptural, often political bookworks.  His blending of an eclectic mix of interests, from musical and theatre performance to social issues and virtual worlds, remain a hallmark of Minsky’s career.  This exhibition showcases his editioned (non-commissioned, made in multiple copies) bookworks alongside selections from the Richard Minsky Archive, which documents the history of his career and his working process.

The presentation is in Yale's newest state-of-the-art archival gallery:

William H. Wright Special Collections Exhibit Area of The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library
The large cabinet on the right shows Minsky's limited edition set, The Bill of Rights.

The exhibition covers 50 years of Minsky’s work — from a 1960 sample book, used when he started his first letterpress printing business at age 13, to “Self-Portrait 2010,” a book that documents the evolution of a canvas, from pencil sketch through many layers of oil paint.

Yale University Library acquired the Richard Minsky Archive in 2004. It includes maquettes, molds for castings, and correspondence, as well as holographic manuscripts and early versions of select works. It documents Minsky's exploration of printing technologies from the mimeograph and spirit duplicator to his early use of inkjet printing on handmade paper.

“Minsky’s work as an artist and as founder of The Center for Book Arts in New York changed the way people see and make books,” said Jae Jennifer Rossman, the Haas Family Arts Library’s Assistant Director for Special Collections.

Many of Minsky's editioned works (non-commissioned work made in multiple copies) will be on view in the exhibition, along with unique works that have become iconic in the field of book art. These include his 1975 binding of “The Birds of North America” and “The Crisis of Democracy,” bound in sheepskin, gold and barbed wire.

One of Minsky's newest works, Freedom of Choice, is interactive and permits the reader to engage his/her full body in the reading experience.

Freedom of Choice (2009)
Three Poems of Love and Death
by Lucie Brock-Broido

This recent work by Minsky pushes his "material meets metaphor" philosophy to the extreme.  As Minsky wrote about the previous installation of this piece:

“People could be and were strapped into it on request to read the book and/or wear the headphones, which play a recording of me reading the poems. Some people sat in it and didn't get strapped in.  Freedom of Choice.”

He created this work specifically for the exhibition “Somewhere Far From Habit: The Poet and the Artist's Book” sponsored by Longwood University and exhibited at The Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, MA, November 6–December 5, 2009.  The book of Brock-Broido’s poetry is published in an edition of 5, printed inkjet on J. Barcham Green 1976 handmade paper. Copy No. 1, on display, is bound in dark teal goatskin with 23K gold title, chained to an oak electric chair. Copies numbered 2 to 5 are bound in limp leather with gold title, no chair.

For the full experience, the reader can strap on the head restraint with three electrodes, applying one electrode to the leg. An MP3 player on the head restraint plays Minsky's reading of the three poems, two of which concern shotgun suicides and one, an electrocution. On the back of the chair is a cabinet containing a 20 gauge shotgun, a Manila hangman's noose, a wakizashi sword, razor blades, poison and a hypodermic syringe.

His new book, The Art of American Book Covers, 1875–1930, was published this year by George Braziller, Inc.

The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library opened in August 2008 in the renovated Paul Rudolph Hall and the new Loria Center for the History of Art. The library brings together the collections, staff, and resources from the former Art + Architecture and Drama libraries and the Arts of the Book Collection, as well as staff and services for the Visual Resources Collection. It serves as the library for the Schools of Art, Architecture, and Drama, as well as the Department of the History of Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.

HOURS: The library is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. during the summer. In September the library will be open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Fridays.

Curator: Jae Jennifer Rossman, Assistant Director for Special Collections

With assistance from
Mia D’Avanza, 2009 Kress Fellow in Art Librarianship
Molly Dotson, 2010 Kress Fellow in Art Librarianship

The entrance to Yale University's Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library is in the
Loria Center for the History of Art at 190 York Street, New Haven, CT.

click here to order the printed catalog

A free PDF catalog download from Yale

Read the article in BOOKTRYST

On October 5, 2010 Yale hosted a Lecture by Richard Minsky [click here for details]

To continue the exhibition, click one of the sections or a button. 
Each section has several thumbnail images and descriptions of the works. You can click on any image for a page about that work, with larger pictures and details.