Curators' StatementThe Art of the Book '98 is the third juried members exhibition we have co-curated and it was, as always, a privilege and a pleasure to do so. We have in the ten year interim curated or co-curated a number of invitational single location or travelling exhibitions: Meister der Einbandkunst; Contemporary Canadian Bookworks; Boxed-In; Bookworks '90 and '93 and several historical or didactic shows. However the Art of the Book exhibitions provide us with a unique opportunity to view a large body of work from many artists in different fields and widely separated geographically. This has given us a feel for the changes occurring as well as introducing us to many interesting book artists.
AB98 attracted 323 submissions from 144 artists from Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia), the United States, France, Spain, England, and Finland. We believe that there would have been even more submissions had we juried from pieces rather than slides. We are given to understand that many book artists are uncomfortable with photography and more particularly with setting up their work for slides.
Slide jurying is, quite clearly, the less desirable route. It is often impossible to judge the quality of the work, technically and/or aesthetically. Subtleties may not be evident. Some pieces photograph better and some worse than they are, requiring a second stage of jurying from the work.
Slide jurying does, unfortunately, become a necessity when dealing with a large number of submissions, particularly when many come from outside Canada -- 126 in the case of AB'98. We had to clear over 100 parcels through Canadian customs in a ten day period for Art of the Book '93 and vowed never to do so again. NAFTA and the GST have made this even more difficult, forcing us to decide on slide jurying, much against our better judgement.
Now to the pleasure part -- we had the opportunity to see repeatedly over 600 slides of entrants in Artists Book (176 - 54.5%), Fine Binding (61 - 19%), Calligraphy (30 - 9.2%), Fine Printing (29 - 8.75%), Papermaking (16 - 5%), Boxmaking (6 - 2%), Paper Decorating (5 - 1.5%). We saw marvellous, interesting, and very diverse work.
Even though smaller than previously, the strongest category was Calligraphy. There is a network of calligraphy associations across Canada and the United States allowing quite a few opportunities to exhibit or to publish with the result that calligraphy is flourishing.
By far the largest number of entrants were in the Artists Books category, as was the greatest surprise. The progress in this field from 1989 to 1993 and then from 1993 to 1998 has been enormous. There are many more innovative, daring and challenging works being successfully attempted. The surprise and the pleasure were in both the risk taking and the accomplishment.
We are convinced that there are many artists doing boxmaking and paper decorating and hope to see more of their work in 2003.
Fine Binding and Fine Printing are the hardest areas to affect in Canada. There was excellent work in both of these fields but fewer new artists, surely due to the paucity of teaching in these areas.
We both would like to thank all of those who submitted work to AB98. The jurying was, as always, very difficult with the jury wishing that they might accept many more submissions than can possibly be shown in the galleries. The jury and the curators appreciate the courage and the generosity of the artists. We, the curators, respond by ensuring that your work is well cared for and is seen as widely as possible and to its best advantage. Each time we are swamped with the work load of a juried exhibition we ask ourselves 'would we do it again?' and we always end up with an affirmative answer. We are the fortunate ones.
Shelagh Smith and Susan Corrigan