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Books as Art

Curated by Paolo Cortese

15.06.2023 - 20.10.2023

“Of all man’s instruments, the most wondrous, no doubt, is the book. The other instruments are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone is the extension of his voice; then we have the plough and the sword, extensions of the arm. But the book is something else altogether: the book is an extension of memory and imagination.”
_Jorge Luis Borges

From June 15th to October 20th, Gramma Epsilon Gallery in Athens presents the group exhibition ‘Books as Art’ curated by Paolo Cortese, with the Patronage of the Italian Institute of Culture in Athens. The exhibition, dedicated to the book as a form of art, showcases works of artists from different generations and nationalities. Concrete and verbo-visual works that date back to the 1960s are placed in a dialogue with works by artists of later generations who continue to explore the multiple possibilities of the book as an expression of their art.

In the terminology established by Mirella Bentivoglio in the 1980s and 1990s during numerous group exhibitions dedicated to this particular form of artistic expression, ‘librista’ is used as a term that describes an artist who produces book-objects, the artist who is inspired by the form and the meaning of the book. Two universes are being put together: that of Logos, the language, which the works represent through their form, and that of the Mater, the matter, which the works celebrate through their substance. Two opposing dimensions that emerge in singular, communicative and silent poetic testimonies.

In this era of the computer, in which the book has declined as a medium of verbal communication, its symbolism engraved in the subconscious renders it a new vehicle for global communication. In such a way the book-object has truly broken all customs and it is not known anymore whether it is a theme, a technique, a support or a movement. In a participatory and questioning way, it seems to indicate a general awareness of a new iconography of the Logos, which the human of our time recognizes and communicates”, writes Mirella Bentivoglio in 1990 when presenting a historical exhibit dedicated to ‘Librismo’ at the Art Duchamp Gallery in Cagliari.

Furthermore, “they are volumes in both senses of the word; volumes considering their physicality. No longer vehicles of language, the books are symbols of the book; they dig deep into the psyche and find the archetype of the tables of the law. Books that undergo transformation in terms of form, structure, matter, giving rise to plastic-poetic circuits. Linguistic objects which by association move the work from the field of art to the suddenly complementary field of poetry”.

The works exhibited in Athens are three-dimensional, inspired by the book and the page, created by more than thirty international artists from the area of conceptual, verbal, visual and fiber art of different countries and generations. Captivating and communicative works, realised in diverse materials, which are capable of bringing together with immediacy the world of the words with the universe of the materiality. Many works in this exhibition are historical examples and have been exhibited in the most prestigious museum venues. For the most part, they are unique pieces, together with examples of special editions.

During the opening, Maria Jole Serreli, a fiber artist from Sardinia, realised her performance The Forever Books: ten books, containers of word and real stories, dressed in dreams, were sealed forever preserving the memory of the intimate story of whoever owned them.

Artists: Marilla Battilana, Mirella Bentivoglio, Tomaso Binga, Evangelía Biza, Irma Blank, Anna Boschi, Francesca Cataldi, Chiara Diamantini, Lia Drei, Anna Esposito, Elisabetta Gut, Fernanda Fedi, Susanne Kessler, Maria Lai, Rosanna Lancia, Virginia Lorenzetti, Lucia Marcucci, Gisella Meo, Patrizia Molinari, Aurelia Muñoz, Elly Nagaoka, Giulia Niccolai, Renata Prunas, Betty Radin, Anna Maria Sacconi, Alba Savoi, Marilena Scavizzi, Greta Schödl, Maria Jole Serreli, Franca Sonnino, Giulia Spernazza, Chima Sunada, Saletta Tavares, Anna Torelli, Anna Uncini, Carla Vasio