Early in his career, Ezra Pound undertook the translation of a number of Tang Dynasty era Chinese poems. Originally published in 1915, Cathay is one of Pound’s earliest collections of translated poetry. This edition of the book contains Pound’s translations of eighteen poems most of which were written by Li Po, an 8th century poet known for his conversational poems about everyday life. Also included are seven hors texte color woodblock prints created by renowned painter Francesco Clemente. Like Pound before him, Clemente’s travels and his knowledge of the arts of other cultures have been a foundation and an inspiration for his own work, and his sensitive prints resonate harmoniously with the poetry.
This hardbound book features handmade Japanese Ogawashi paper and is covered in blue Japanese linen with a matching slipcase. The pages of the book are printed on only one side and folded over at the fore edge in the Eastern style of bookmaking.
This copy is number 67 out of 300 and is signed by the artist at the colophon.
This book features a single poem by William Carlos Williams and seven color intaglio prints by paiinter Helen Frankenthaler. Like many of Frankenthaler’s graphic works, this portfolio was printed by Tyler Graphics. Her lyrical compositions, filled with her signature soft washes of color, complement the porm with images on the theme of love.
Williams’ short poem is printed through lithography on a folio of white handmade paper. The folio encloses Frankenthaler’s loose prints and features an additional intaglio print by the artist on its cover.
This copy is numbered 25 out of an edition of 35 with an additional 19 copies for proofs and the printer’s archives. It is signed and dated by Frankenthaler on the folio.
This enigmatic book has attracted much critical attention both for its aesthetic qualities and for its unique approach to collaboration. Johns insisted on working with a text from Beckett that he had not read, and he decided upon the images before he knew what text would be chosen. All of the motifs for the illustrations in the book are more or less taken from Johns’ 1972 Untitled, a four-panel oil, encaustic, and collage on canvas now at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, which was chosen by him on the basis of his a priori knowledge of Beckett. Some of the images are modified to reflect Beckett’s text and the smaller format of the book’s leaves but others are not. Beckett offered to translate eight “Fizzles,” or character pieces he had written between 1960 and 1972, and of these Johns chose five, apparently to fit with the number of images he had already selected. These appear in the edition in both their original French and in Beckett’s English translation. Beckett offered to translate eight “Fizzles,” or character pieces he had written between 1960 and 1972, and of these Johns chose five, apparently to fit with the number of images he had already selected. These appear in the edition in both their original French and in Beckett’s English translation.
This approach to collaboration, or independent non-collaboration, was not original with Johns. His friends John Cage and Merce Cunningham, composer and choreographer respectively, began working together in the early 1940s in New York and at Black Mountain College and by the mid 1940s their joint work had evolved into separate and independent work on single performances. Only the duration of the performance was agreed upon in advance. Cunningham's dancers would not know the music to which they were to dance until the night of the performance. When in the early 1950s artist Robert Rauschenberg began to design the stage sets, costumes, and lighting, he knew nothing about the music or choreography. The rationale for this approach was to have art mimic the ordinary experiences of everyday life which is filled with sounds, sights, and movements that constitute, at any given moment, uncoordinated and unrelated stimuli the only common element of which is that they exist in the same time and place. Johns and Rauschenberg lived together in New York from 1955 to 1961 so Johns would have been familiar with this approach.
After the book was released it became the subject of two museum exhibitions. First, at the Whitey Museum of American Art, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles,” which ran for two months in 1977, and ten years later at the Wright Art Gallery at UCLA, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles: Echo and Allusion in the Art of Jasper Johns,” which ran for two months in 1987. This copy of Foirades / Fizzles includes both exhibition catalogues and the eight page prospectus issued by the Petersburg Press in 1976 which is bound with a black cord and includes four full page illustrations. The book is printed on handmade wove Auvergne Richard de Bas paper which is watermarked with Beckett’s initials and Johns’ signature.
This copy is one of an edition of 250 copies plus fifty hors commerce. It is signed by Beckett and Johns.
Commentary on this work:
"This cerebral volume that provokes more questions than it answers is considered one of the greatest artists’ books of the twentieth century." Robert Flynn Johnson, Artists’ Books in the Modern Era 1870 – 2000
"Foirades / Fizzles must rank among the most beautiful illustrated books of the century, an ambiguous object that is both a dark meditation on death and alienation, and an impassive, measured exploration of the mechanics of the book format."
Joan Rothfuss, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Ellsworth Kelly’s six decades of plant drawings were the subject of a comprehensive exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2012 which encompassed work from Kelly’s early days in Paris in 1948 through more recent work from his upstate New York studio. This book, from a smaller exhibition at the Matthew Marks Gallery held October 14 through November 28, 1992, preceded the Met show by twenty years.
These drawings capture only the graceful essence of an otherwise remarkably complex natural world, and in their simplicity they reveal the representational views of an ardently abstract artist. To Kelly, however, they are “a kind of bridge to a way of seeing that was the basis of the very first abstract paintings.”
Each opening of this beautifully designed book presents one drawing on the recto and an unobtrusive identification of the depicted plant on the preceding verso (with an occasional variation for a series of related drawings). The work includes an essay by poet and former ARTNews editor John Ashbery. This is copy 15 of 100 (of a planned but unrealized 150) hardbound copies signed by Kelly and Ashbery.
In this volume, Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt responds to a series of poems by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. First published in 1991, these poems are similar in shape to a square: they consist of twelve lines arranged into four three-line stanzas. The 48 poems are then divided into four sections with 12 poems each: “Lightenings,” “Settings,” “Crossings,” and “Squarings.” Helen Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University, introduces the poems with an essay discussing Heaney’s work.
The mathematical and geometrical presentation of the poems is fittingly accompanied by forty-eight illustrations by LeWitt. Known for using self-imposed restrictions to create variations on geometric forms such as the cube, LeWitt here produces drawings developed from the form of a square. Each illustration is captioned with the constraints LeWitt used to create the drawings – for instance, “Scribbles and a square with not straight horizontal lines outside and not straight vertical lines inside.” LeWitt’s original drawings are presented as letterpress illustrations printed from photopolymer plates.
This book was published in a limited edition of 426 with 400 numbered copies and an additional 26 lettered copies for complimentary distribution. This copy is numbered 112 and is signed by the artist and the author. This copy is accompanied by a letterpress-printed prospectus.
Ficciones pairs the work of Jorge Luis Borges, a founder of postmodernist literature, and that of Sol LeWitt, a founder of Conceptual Art. Writer Alastair Reid, a close friend of Borges, first suggested the pairing, and ultimately LeWitt not only created the illustrations, but also designed the entire book. The block-like format of the book, the rectangular borders around the text, and the Cloister Bold typeface chosen by LeWitt give the volume a monumental appearance. An essay by Alexander Coleman, entitled “The Designs of Jorge Luis Borges,” introduces the collection of short stories. Appearing at regular intervals throughout the seventeen stories are twenty-two illustrations featuring straight lines overlapping and running in different directions to create LeWitt’s characteristic geometric figures. The original drawings were printed as silkscreens by LeWitt’s friend, printmaker Jo Watanabe, and each silkscreen was created by printing four layers – one layer for each direction of line.
Ficciones was published by the Limited Editions Club in an edition of 1500 copies. This copy is numbered 1175 and signed by LeWitt at the colophon. Also included with the book is the Limited Editions Club Monthly Letter discussing the origin of the volume.
Location of Three Geometric Figures is an artist’s book that Sol LeWitt created during a particularly productive period in his career. In 1974, he published six books in addition to this one, including The Location of Eight Points and Arcs and Lines. This book takes the form of a tri-fold brochure with an additional loose sheet enclosed in a glossy cardstock folder. In keeping with LeWitt’s practice of using language and instructions to create his art, the tri-fold contains a single text in three languages, English, French, and German, which specifies the location of three geometric figures: a square, a circle, and a triangle. Each panel of the tri-fold has a black-and-white line illustration of one of the three figures with the prescribing text appearing in three columns below it.
The loose sheet features six illustrations of semi-cubes, forms with which LeWitt is often associated and which played the main role in his book Incomplete Open Cubes, also published in 1974. Location of Three Geometric Figures was published on the occasion of an exhibition of LeWitt’s work organized by the Société des Expositions, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. It was jointly edited by Hossmann, Hamburg and Yves Gevaert, Société des Expositions, Brussels.
This book represents a successful collaboration between a prominent Abstract Expressionist artist and a prominent American fine press. This is a very large book, thanks to its author James Joyce, and it contains on its 838 numbered pages one of the landmark literary works of the twentieth century.
Contained in the book are forty etchings, twenty of which are in color, by Robert Motherwell. This copy of the book includes the scarce extra suite of twenty-two Motherwell etchings published simultaneously with the book. Each etching, 13 x 10 inches, is numbered and signed by the artist and placed in a folder which, in turn, is placed in a separate portfolio. Only forty of the original 150 copies of the book have this extra suite of prints, and a complete set rarely becomes available for sale.
One of Yoko Ono’s most famous works of any medium, Grapefruit, is an influential example of conceptual art. Associating the work with freedom and independence, Ono self-published the first edition under the imprint Wunternaum Press on July 4, 1964. Like many of her artworks, this book is interactive in nature and contains a collection of text-based conceptual artworks, or instruction pieces.
Presented under the headings of Music, Painting, Event, Poetry, and Object, each page features a set of instructions proposing an artwork that readers imagine or realize themselves. “Cough Piece,” for example, instructs readers to “Keep coughing a year,” while “Tunafish Sandwich Piece” invites readers to “[i]magine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time. Let them shine for one hour. Then, let them gradually melt into the sky. Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.” Ono’s democratic conception of the book extended to its production and the first edition of this book was inexpensively printed in a small square format and perfect bound with cardstock covers. The first edition of this book, of which this copy is one, was limited to 500 copies. In the summer of 1964, during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Ono sold copies of it on the streets. An expanded version of the book was reprinted by Simon and Schuster in 1970 and several times thereafter. It has been translated into many different languages.
Due to its instructional nature, the book remained a factor in her work for several years. In 1966, she sailed from New York to London to participate in DIAS, a month-long event formally called the Destruction in Art Symposium, organized by London based artist Gustav Metzger. Her participation in this event included Cut Piece, where members of the audience cut away parts of her clothing. This created quite a buzz, and Ono was invited to show her work at an exhibition held at the Indica Gallery and Bookshop. It was at the preview for this show, held the night before the opening, that Ono met John Lennon.
The works in the Indica show drew heavily from the instructional “menus” found in Grapefruit. In the words of a recent MoMA exhibition catalogue: "A great many of the works in the exhibition were examples of her “instruction paintings” and demonstrated her notion of “brain painting.” The sources of many of them were the scores printed in the 1964 edition of her book Grapefruit." Biesenbach and Cherix, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show 1960-1971.
This copy of the scarce first edition features a handwritten inscription by the artist in English reading “To Francis, Yoko Ono London ‘66”, and thus ties it to her Cut Piece trip and her first meeting with Lennon. Like much of her work made during this period, Ono was preoccupied with war, and in the lower left of the same page the artist has by hand copied, as part on the inscription but written in Japanese with Kanji characters, a poignant haiku by Basho:
Ah! Summer grasses!
All that remains
Of the warriors’ dreams
First published in 1923, the ambitious, experimental novel Cane by Jean Toomer is here presented with artwork by the celebrated sculptor Martin Puryear. The novel’s thematically-linked vignettes include passages of fiction, poetry, and drama, which together paint a complex portrait of African-American life at that time. Considered a masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance as well as an important work of Modernist literature, Cane first explores the rural folk culture of African-Americans living in Georgia, then the urban life of African-Americans in Washington D.C., and then returns to the South in its last section. This edition features an afterword by historian Leon F. Litwack discussing Jean Toomer’s life and the historical context in which the novel was written.
Like Toomer, Puryear was born in Washington, D.C. He first read Toomer’s novel as a teacher at Fisk University in Nashville in the 1970s,. Puryear chose to illustrate the edition here with seven large woodblock prints which serve as abstract portraits of the female characters in the book. In addition to these bold black-and-white prints, Puryear created three smaller prints to be tipped into the book to introduce each section of the novel. These prints are based on the geometric arcs which appeared in the first edition of Cane and which represent the novel’s circular structure.
This book was published in an edition of 400 numbered copies plus 26 lettered copies hors commerce. This copy is one of the 350 copies bound in linen and is signed and numbered 295 by the artist at the colophon.