NWMA Exhibits Artists’ Books in Bound to Amaze: Inside a Book-Collecting Career

Artist's book resembling a salad in a bowl. Constructed of Tyvek that has been painted in swirling greens and map-folded to look like leaves of lettuce, there is poem written on the inner the leaves.

WASHINGTON—The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) presents Bound to Amaze: Inside a Book-Collecting Career, on view July 20–Nov. 25, 2018. Curator Emerita Krystyna Wasserman assembled NMWA’s collection of more than 1,000 artists’ books over a 30-year period. This focus exhibition celebrates her vision and features 20 notable artists’ books from the museum’s expansive collection.

“This presentation offers a glimpse into Krystyna Wasserman’s curatorial process, focusing on the friendships she has built with artists through the years based on their shared passion for the book art genre,” said Chief Curator Kathryn Wat. “Through her expert work, NMWA has become a world-renowned repository for this dynamic and highly expressive art form.”

Although Wasserman procured exquisite texts made through the time-honored processes of printing and binding, Bound to Amaze centers on her discovery of books that incorporate inventive techniques such as piercing, pleating, curling and tying. A number of featured works are dramatically sculptural in form, made from materials including linen, wood and semi-precious stone. Accordion book structures, such as Dido and Aeneas (1989) by Claire Van Vliet (b. 1933), unfold to reveal all of their drama simultaneously. Green Salad (2001) by Katherine Glover (b. 1947) comprises a wooden salad bowl filled with green leaves of paper and a poem about the artist’s son nestled inside the leaves.

“I have always been very concerned with the visual appeal of the books because I wanted to exhibit them, and so I looked for originality and diversity of structures and materials,” said Wasserman. “I have tried to find works that convey an artist’s idea through a book’s structure.”

With subjects ranging from Shakespeare’s Desdemona to the pleasures of eating, the books also reveal Wasserman’s love of drama and whimsy. “Book artists often embrace several muses simultaneously, and their books demonstrate these relationships,” said Wasserman. Desdemona in Her Own Words (2014) by Emily Martin (b. 1953) is a creative collaboration with William Shakespeare. Martin excerpted all of the words spoken by Desdemona in the play Othello and substituted them with the lines she believes Desdemona should have said. Elisabetta Gut’s L’Uccello di fuoco (Da Stravinsky) (The Firebird (From Stravinsky)) (1985) is her visual response to Igor Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird. Her wordless collage—a colorful dance of flying paper cut-outs—evokes the atmosphere of the Russian folk tale that inspired the ballet.

Recently retired from the museum, Wasserman first served as director of NMWA’s library and then as curator of book arts. Bound to Amaze includes many visitor favorites along with new acquisitions being exhibited for the first time.

Bound to Amaze: Inside a Book-Collecting Career, presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and made possible by Mrs. Marjorie B. Rachlin. Additional support is provided by Julie and Jon Garcia.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs and online content, the museum seeks to inspire dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today. The collections highlight painting, sculpture, photography and video by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.

NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. It is open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sun., noon–5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youth 18 and under. Admission is free the first Sunday of each month. For information, call 202-783-5000, visit nmwa.org, Broad Strokes Blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.