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The Reva and David Logan (Virtual) Symposium on the Artist’s Book

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Portrait of Iliazd by Alberto Giacometti, from Douze portraits du célèbre Orbandale, 1962

Portrait of Iliazd by Alberto Giacometti, from "Douze portraits du célèbre Orbandale". Paris: Le Degré Quarante et Un [Iliazd], 1962. © 2020 Alberto Giacometti Estate / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Opening Iliazd: Publishing as an Art Form

Ilia Zdanévich (Iliazd) (1894-1975) in 1921 brought his unique vision from the Russian avant-garde to Paris, and over the next fifty years pursued the practice of publishing as an art form. With the book as his chosen medium, he was in effect an archetypal media artist whose collaborators included Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and many others. Iliazd was widely regarded among his peers as a very special and original kind of genius, and today he is one of the best-kept secrets in the history of twentieth century art.

Bringing together authorities from the US and Canada, this two-day event will serve as an introduction to a remarkable artist. The first day’s program is devoted to an overview of Iliazd’s life and work. The second day we will examine aspects of his art in depth. Please join us for the fifth annual Logan Symposium on the Artist’s Book, the first devoted to a single artist, and the first to take place exclusively online.

Saturday, October 17, 1–3:30 pm
The Artist and His Work: An Introduction

Opening Remarks
Stephen Woodall, Collections Specialist, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts

Keynote Address
Johanna Drucker, The Iliazd Biography: Archival research and personal encounters

During his lifetime, Iliazd made active contributions to the Russian avant-garde, to the international émigré arts community in Paris, and to the realm of fine press publishing through his elegantly designed and produced editions. Within a decade of his death (in 1975), he had been the subject of several substantial exhibitions devoted to his work—which had attracted the attention of scholars, curators, and collectors. But his biographical profile did not have the recognition of that of his famous collaborators—Picasso, Ernst, Miró, and others—perhaps because his artform was “the book”—a form often perceived a supporting rather than starring role. This talk describes the research through which the biography of Iliazd was produced through first-hand encounters with archives, people, and stories that contextualize the highly-esteemed book productions of this unique figure.

Johanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies and Distinguished Professor of Information Studies at UCLA. Author of Iliazd: Meta-biography of a Modernist (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), she is internationally known for her work on the history of the book, digital humanities, information visualization, and experimental typography. Her artist’s books are represented in private and public collections including the Getty, Beinecke Library, Library of Congress, MoMA, and many others.

Our symposium celebrates the December, 2020, release of Johanna Drucker’s new book Iliazd: A Meta-Biography of a Modernist from Johns Hopkins University Press, with a preorder 30% discount. Call the press at 1-800-537-5487 and mention the discount code HTWN when placing your order.

Timothy Young, Iliazd as a focus of collecting
After several decades of effort by curators at Beinecke Library, a (presumably) complete collection of books created by the master of the modern fine press artist book resides in the library’s collections. During the quest for bibliographic completeness, many lesser-known documents of Iliazd’s career were acquired: posters, flyers, programs, and archival materials which broaden and deepen the history of the poet-printer’s life. Timothy Young will provide context for the development of the collection – how it came to be, what research opportunities it offers, how it can be used for instruction, and how the oeuvre of Iliazd fits into Beinecke’s larger mission of collecting fine press works and evolving forms of the book.

Timothy Young is Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, focusing on modern literary and cultural movements, including the avant garde, children’s literature, financial history, and playing cards and games. He is the author and/or editor of The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720; The Uncollected David Rakoff, and Story Time: Essays on the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of Children's Literature.

Kitty Maryatt, Iliazd by Design: Drama and Performance in Book Form
Iliazd mines his deep-rooted interest in drama and performance for the designs of his limited edition books, every turn of the page carefully planned to serve the text. The paper itself plays its part, even when there is nothing printed on the page. He extracts stunning performances from metal letters normally constrained to a grid system, but his designs are restrained and elegant, even classical. Each text has breathing space on the page which is usually shared with imagery from his well-known artist friends. He controls that space, dictating which portion of the page belonged to the artist. In pedagogy, Iliazd’s books serve as models of expression and restraint for students of the art of the book.

Kitty Maryatt, former Director of the Scripps College Press and Assistant Professor of Art, taught at Scripps College for thirty years. Every semester, her students in the typography class created and produced a book edition by letterpress, including several inspired by Iliazd’s typographic strategies. Her current project from her personal imprint, Two Hands Press, is to re-create Sonia Delaunay’s and Blaise Cendrars’ La Prose du Transsibérien in an edition using original techniques of letterpress and pochoir.

Sunday, October 18, 1–4:00 pm
Opening Iliazd: Facets of His Art

1–2:20 pm

Opening Remarks
Stephen Woodall

Andrei Ustinov, Ilia Zdanevich, the Parisian Avant-Garde, and the Russians
When he arrived in Paris from Istanbul in mid-November 1921, Ilia Zdanevich was warmly admitted into the community of Russian avant-garde artists who had preceded him there. Longtime friends Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova organized his first Paris lecture, Nouvelles écoles dans la poésie russe, and invited his participation in the organization of the émigrés’ famous artist balls. Russian avant-garde poets from the Gatarapak group introduced Iliazd to their Dada counterparts. The maze of rivalries and alliances that Iliazd navigated within the Russian community, and his later estrangement from that community, reveal much about the complex atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s.

Andrei Ustinov studied at the University of St. Petersburg and received his PhD from Stanford University. Writing and publishing mostly in Russian, he has been engaged in research of the Russian avant-garde for more than thirty years. With University of Toronto professor Leonid Livak, he co-authored The Russian Literary Avant-Garde in Paris (1920‒1926), published in Moscow in 2018. His monograph Ecole de Paris in Russian Poetry is dedicated to émigré participation in the Parisian Dada movement.

Thomas Kitson, “GRACE SHOOTS THROUGH ALL THE WORLD”: Designing Books to Read like Poems
Four of Iliazd’s late books, beginning with Afat (1940), feature his Russian poetry. In effect, for all but a few of those who received or purchased these books, the texts were inaccessible, and yet the poems were not accidental filler any more than the texts in Iliazd’s other books. In fact, Iliazd’s poetry treats themes and formal problems integral not just to those specific editions, but also to his approach to designing books throughout the period from 1940 until his death. Reading Iliazd’s books, we struggle with frustration, search for rhyme and pattern, follow associations, experience flashes of revelation, and come to terms with unresolved obscurity. When we are open and involved, the reading can be life-changing.

Thomas J. Kitson is a translator living in New York City. His 2017 translation of Iliazd’s novel Rapture (Columbia University Press) won a Special Mention from the 2018 Read Russia Prize jury. He received a 2019 Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for his work on another novel by Iliazd, Philosophia. He holds a Ph.D. in Russian Literature from Columbia University.

David Sume, Le Courtisan grotesque: Iliazd’s Final Conception of the Illustrated Book
Iliazd’s final book, Le Courtisan grotesque, of 1974, includes colorful ludic engravings by Joan Miró. Like Iliazd’s La Maigre, of 1952, the text is by Adrien de Monluc (1571-1646). In some ways Courtisan is more similar to the lavish illustrated editions of his contemporaries, but at the same time it subverts and transcends those books. Despite the fact that it took years to finally be realized, and that Iliazd was ill and unable to focus on all aspects of its production, one last time he explored variations of his idea of the illustrated book. As with his other books, Courtisan features manipulated typography, an obscure text, and a carefully conceived structure, which absolutely distinguish it.

David Sume received a PhD from the University of Montreal in 2019. His dissertation, The Architectural Nature of the Illustrated Books of Iliazd, has received praise for its deep investigation of the structural properties of Iliazd’s work, and its comparative analysis of existing scholarship in the field. In the course of his research he has examined numerous variant copies of Iliazd’s books in collections around the world.

Participants from both Saturday and Sunday programs join in a moderated conversation on topics raised in the presentations.

Closing Remarks

Ticket Information

Register Here

This symposium is free to join. Can’t tune in? A recording of the symposium will be available on our YouTube channel in November.


The Reva and David Logan Symposium on the Artist’s Book is made possible through the generous support of the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation.

Contact Information
(415) 750-3600