Understanding Books as Art: Art Books Cleveland Keeps Tradition and Innovation Alive

The Story Emerges from the Book. Photo courtesy of Gene Epstein.

As reading material is increasingly digitized, some people wonder about the future of physical books. And yet, books and book art are thriving around the world, and Cleveland is part of that trend. Book art transforms books, emphasizing their structure and design as well as—or in place of—their content. The book becomes an art object, sometimes unrecognizable as a book without careful inspection. In this process, book artists celebrate the object and its purposes, encouraging reflection on the artifact itself as conveying meaning, but also on the meaning of books in our lives. Viewers interact with books in new and thought-provoking ways.

The book is a technology that has been developed and perfected in many locations for many purposes over millennia, morphing from tablet to scroll to codex—and that sequence is just what we find in the Western history of the book! The book has always been an interactive technology too, modified to address the purposes of the creator and the needs of the reader. The best books have always incorporated an element of art, as, for example, the beautifully illuminated manuscript books of the Middle Ages and the stunning examples of handset letterpress books from five hundred years of printing. However, the artistic elements of books are often lost to their utility; book artists aim to change that focus.

Book art is not new. Collage, reuse, restructuring, and fine art decoration all have long histories around the world. But book artists continue to experiment and innovate, creating new and different structures using differing methods and materials to convey meaning.

Art Books Cleveland (ABC) reflects trends in creativity related to the book as art object. Examples on these pages demonstrate a few of the many ways in which artists think about the book as artifact while keeping alive its relevance in modern culture. Learn more about Art Books Cleveland at artbookscleveland.org or on our Facebook page.

To see more examples, be sure to visit this year’s ABC exhibits at Octavofest. You will find these exhibits at the Morgan Paper Conservatory and at the Brecksville Community Center. Check octavofest.org for coming events.


Art Books Cleveland

c/o the Morgan Conservatory

1754 East 47th Street

Cleveland, Ohio 44103