Book artists club from School of Art hosts 20th annual exhibition

A Buncha Book Artists presents work from students, alumni and community members in 20th annual exhibition

A Buncha Book Artists is hosting its 20th annual exhibition displaying artist books, experimental prints, zines and more encompassing themes of environmental and cultural awareness, as well as the power of print.

The exhibit can be viewed Monday through Friday from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12, at the Harry Wood Gallery on the Tempe campus. In addition to viewing in person, the exhibit will be available online in a few days.

This exhibition from one of the longest-standing clubs in the School of Art includes work from students, alumni and community members. The focus of the exhibit is to view books as forms of art, not just as things to read.

Advisor Daniel Mayer invited many alumni to participate, given the anniversary of the exhibition. Alumni are exhibiting alongside current students, whose work may be on display for the first time, and community members who have been exhibiting since day one.

“These are books as works of art," Mayer said. "Some books are maybe not meant to be touched because they could be sculptural, just like in a museum."

An art book titled “I have returned” by Jan Talmadge Davids is pictured on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, at the Harry Wood Gallery on the Tempe campus. “I have returned” was labeled the best book form using alternative materials such as porcelain, thread, concertina binding, and handwriting. 

One of the pieces in the exhibit by Daniella Napolitano,  ABBA's public relations chair and a graduate student at the School of Art, details life during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is a "storage book" which captures the feelings of uncertainty in a playful way. It is a comedic reflection on the time spent at home at the beginning of the pandemic, said Varissa Washington, ABBA secretary and a senior studying art. Washington said the piece is one of her favorites.

"An artist's book can feel more accessible than maybe an oil painting because of the familiarity people associate with books," Napolitano said. "Printmaking started out as more of a commercial business and then has been co-opted by artists to become more than just reproductions. There's a rich history of printmaking being for the people which I think is well displayed in the exhibition this year."  

At the exhibit, there are prints lining the wall as well as a timeline of ABBA’s history. On opening night, students and alumni visited the exhibit to see their work alongside community members'. Tables are filled with books to look at, and all were accompanied by the artist’s name and description.

All viewers are asked to maintain a distance of six feet from one another and are asked not to touch the art. Masks are also mandatory while visiting the exhibit.

Some books on a table at the A Bunch of Book Artists (ABBA) Greatest Hits 20-year anniversary exhibition on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, at the Harry Wood Gallery on the Tempe campus. 

The exhibition is usually during the fall semester, but because of COVID-19, it was pushed back in hopes conditions would be better in the spring. Unfortunately, that was not the case, but the students and faculty worked even harder to make sure this exhibit was memorable, Washington said. 

"Last fall we had a touch-table and people could actually interact with the books, but unfortunately with the restrictions, we were not able to do that this year," Washington said. 

Instead, they worked to provide similar, yet safe, alternatives this year. ABBA created a video where viewers can see the books opened up and displayed. In-person attendees can watch the video while in the exhibit so they can still see the insides of the books, similar to other exhibitions in previous years.

"This exhibit showcases artists' books and prints that really highlight the power of bookmaking and not only the printed word but print media in general," Napolitano said. 

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