Read our COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The Reva and David Logan Symposium on the Artist's Book: "Futures of the Book: How artists redefine print media"

This event is expired.

Daniel Mellis and Eugene Ostashevsky

Daniel Mellis and Eugene Ostashevsky: contemporary facsimile, with English translation, of Vasily Kamensky’s Tango with Cows, 1914 (cover)

John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Theater

Throughout history, many artists have approached the book as a particular kind of challenge: an invitation to imagine its form and its future in their own terms. The merging of narrative and image has a rich history that spans thousands of years—from cave drawings to illuminated manuscripts, the visions of William Blake, and contemporary books—but the artist’s book only came into its own as a recognized genre in the twentieth century. Join prominent historians, artists, curators, and scholars as we explore the past, present, and future of this vital, engaging art form.

The Persistence of the Book
Stephen Bury
The advent of the e-book in the 1990s was seen as the death knell of  the physical book, including  the artist's book. However, the artist’s book has not only continued to thrive but has also started to quarry and colonize the virtual world.

Stephen Bury is Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian of the Frick Art Reference Library, New York. He has a BA in modern history from the University of Oxford, a MA in Victorian studies, and a PhD from the University of London, for which his thesis was on John Ruskin. He was the chair of Book Works, London, and is currently chair of the Center for Book Arts, New York. Publications include Artists’ Books (1995, 2015), Artists’ Multiples (2001), and Breaking the Rules (2007).


Tango with Translation
Daniel Mellis
Tango with Cows, by Vasily Kamensky, is an early example of experimental typography and spatial poetry, and one of the most important works of Russian Futurism. This talk describes the process of bringing the book into the present day with an English edition that preserves its typography and materiality. It also examines the insights that microanalysis of the original—conducted for the translation—reveals about its design and production.

Daniel Mellis makes artist’s books and other text-based artworks on such topics as the poetry of philosophy, the phenomenology of space, the built environment, and the law. Experimental letterpress and offset printing underpins much of his work. His work has been shown internationally, including at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, and is in many collections nationwide. He received an MFA from Columbia College Chicago and has degrees in mathematics from the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Book Art: The Secret History
Alastair Johnston
For every famous name in the canon of artists’ books, there is an innovative outsider, usually a self-publisher, who has contributed to our understanding of the book as an art medium. Some were brilliant, little-known outliers whose importance has been acknowledged posthumously, while others remain largely undiscovered.

Alastair Johnston is a Scottish transplant to California, where he has been party to the boom in book arts since 1975, when he founded Poltroon Press with Frances Butler. He is a prolific writer on an eclectic range of topics, including the history of typography, African pop music, artists’ books, and independent literary presses. His most recent book is Dreaming on the Edge: Poets and Book Artists in California (Oak Knoll Press, 2016).

The Book Mutates: Artists' Books in the Digital Age
Amaranth Borsuk
Artists’ books and electronic literature share a concern with the way a text’s material form contributes to its meaning. In this talk and reading, Amaranth Borsuk will share work at the intersection of print and digital media that offers an approach to the born-digital artist’s book.

Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, scholar, and book artist exploring materiality across media. Her most recent book is Pomegranate Eater (Kore, 2016). Her intermedia project Abra (1913 Press, 2016), created with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher, received an NEA-funded Expanded Artists’ Books grant and was recently issued as a limited-edition hand-made book and free iPhone and iPad app. She teaches in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the MFA program in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington, Bothell.

In Conversation: How I Work as a Book Artist
Emily McVarish and Clifton Meador

Practiced at a high level, the artist’s book is an extremely demanding form, requiring a broader skill set than perhaps any other genre in art. Two nationally prominent book artists discuss their engagement with the medium—their creative inspiration and working practices, and the challenges of publication—focusing largely on their recent books, Meador’s Pankisi Prayer Rug (DeMerritt/Pauwels Editions, 2015) and McVarish’s Lessons of Darkness (Granary Books, 2016), both featured in the symposium’s companion exhibition, Historic Futures.

Emily McVarish is a writer, designer, and book artist who lives and works in San Francisco. Her work, published by Granary Books in New York, is in the collections of many major museums and libraries. Her writing on design has been featured in Visible Language and Design and Culture. A second edition of Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide, which she co-wrote and designed with Johanna Drucker, was published by Prentice Hall in 2012. She is associate professor of Graphic Design, Design, and Writing at California College of the Arts.

Clifton Meador’s work incorporates writing, photography, printmaking, and design to produce artist’s books that explore culture, history, and place. Meador’s artist’s books have been exhibited widely and are held by many major collections. He was director of Nexus Press from 1985 to 1988, taught at SUNY New Paltz from 1994 to 2005, and was director of the MFA in Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago from 2005 to 2014. He is now professor and chair of the Department of Art at Appalachian State University.

Ticket Information

Free admission with paid entry to the museum.


This event is generously supported by the Reva and David Logan Foundation and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Contact Information

Public Programs
(415) 750-7694