Art I’d Buy: Artists Books by Jen Coster

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Art I’d Buy is a new, bi-weekly series which asks artists and curators to share a sample of art they admire, the artists who fascinate them and works they would invite into their homes for a long conversation.

Each segment will ask a different member of the community to contribute, with themes ranging from paintings, prints, books, sculptures, installations, and more. The series reveals insights into the relationships artists share with ideas and each other, the moments of connection to a work, and encourages a culture of collecting to support working artists.

This week focuses on the Artist Book. The Artist Book is one of the most accessible means to take home work from an artist. It usually exists in some form as a documentation of an artist’s practice, but functions as a work of art in its own right. The Artist Book’s visual, tactile and immersive experience focuses our attention and lets us wander into another’s world. Here are a few I’d like to wander with.

Art Theme: Artist Books (mostly handmade)
Price range: $20 – $200


“Simple Pleasures”
by Zoe Ghertner, published by Gottlund Verlag
Artist Book, edition of 300

Status: I bought it. It arrived in the mail, and it is beautiful. More copies available.

Baltimore Connection: Nicholas Gottlund was formerly living and working in Baltimore, a MICA graduate. He is now based in LA and Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Zoe Ghertner is an LA based artist.

My Connection: I have no personal connections to Nicholas Gottlund or Zoe Ghertner.

About the book: “Continuing with our ‘year of California books’ the Gottlund book house is pleased to release Simple Pleasures, a new artist book by the Los Angeles based photographer Zoe Ghertner. Between the two bright red card covers, Ghertner has composed a group of measured still lives. The brightly colored painted wooden shapes and their equally colorful backgrounds playfully tease the viewer’s sense of scale, dimension and space.”

My Interest: I saw Gottlund Verlag books at the NY Art Book Fair last year, it was my favorite booth at the fair. Not only are the books made with an exceptional level of craftsmanship, the selected artists each have a playful even romantic conceptualism that invites an extended relationship with the work. It is smart work, it is luscious work, it is work that I think about days after seeing it, and work that I go back to a second and third time to consider. A week after seeing the table in NY I bought Coley Brown’s A Recurring Dream. I missed the NY art fair this year, and was doing some internet wandering and was curious to see what was new at the shop when I found this book along with several other interesting projects.


Alex Lukas
RTMA, 2013
8.5″ x 7.25″
72 pages. Numbered edition of 100.
Screen print, color and B&W photocopy, diazotype and offset pages with an offset cover. And some foil tape too.

Status: Copies Available. I’m thinking which purchase I want to make.

Baltimore Connection: Alex Lukas has shown in Baltimore, (Nudashank, Current) and is based in Philadelphia.

My Connection: I was introduced to Alex’s work at his talk at the sophiajacob Lecture series.

About the book: Alex Lukas, a RISD grad, who founded Cantab publishing in 2001, has a prolific practice in a range of mediums including ‘zines, photography, installation, print and illustration. Known for his renderings of disasters which combine found appropriated images and illustrated landscapes, Lukas continually pushes his modes of production with experimental and satisfying results. Take a look at his website for many other available, affordable, and poignant works, like this $8 zine, or this set of prints $40 for one and $100 for a set of three.


Art I Should Have Bought: Blisner, Ill.

by Daniel Shea
Artist Book, edition of 50
Status: Sold Out

Baltimore Connection: MICA grad and professor, lives in NY.

My Connection: Acquaintance / Friend

Description: “Blisner, Ill. is a book and exhibition project that provides an account of what happened in and what remains of a single Rust Belt town during the process of deindustrialization. Beginning with an early history of the discovery of bituminous coal in Southern Illinois, moving through the last century of mine disasters and factory closures, and ending with the fallout of deindustrialization, Blisner represents a narrative that is both distantly dystopic and familiar to discourses on American industry and Main Street. The Blisner that exists today provides the surface that renders these histories photographically possible.”

My interest: These are handmade books which were produced from a residency at Columbia College Chicago Photography Department’s Digital Artist in Residence Program. The artist recently gave a talk at Current Gallery, and you can learn more about his practice here. A few months ago I flipped through a copy of this book that a friend bought, and I was enamored with the book’s beautiful craft, the dynamic photography and the sharp concept.


by Marissa Lee Benedict
Artist book/exhibition catalog
Edition of 250
$20 or art trade

Baltimore connection: Marissa Lee Benedict is a Chicago based artist

My Connection: Acquaintance / Friend / met at a residency

About the book: Marissa works as a “Public Amateur” investigating complex systems with a hands on approach and a poetic sensitivity. She creates propositions, experimental systems, and lyrically investigates the world around her. She has been working with Algae for the past 4 years in a myriad of forms. I did an art trade with her for this hand bound artist book she made in conjunction with her solo show at Threewalls this spring.

Here is an excerpt:

I want to talk about pairs and multiplices; simultaneities and separations; iteration and reiteration; sampling and searching and researching; cutting apart and together; certainty and curiosity and uncertainty; chance and intention and proposition; moments of hope and failure; loss and transformation; everything and nothing.

At its origin, this was an exploration about algae, and its transformation into biodiesel.

About the forced metamorphosis of a living organism — algae — into a material with another “life,” as fuel for our vehicles, our industries, our politics, our economies, our systems. Invested in both practically and theoretically researching the potential uses of algae, I want/ed to translate an abstract understanding of a process into practical knowledge and vice versa; information becoming embodied knowledge becoming information. I want/ed to get my hands on something, to know something with my whole body and mind. I want/ed to rearticulate the first 1968 Whole Earth Catalog statement of PURPOSE, which challenges the reader to “…conduct his[/her] own education, find his[/her] own inspiration, shape his[/her] own environment, and share his[/her] adventure with whoever is interested.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 7.59.27 AM


Heart of Darkness
by Matt Kish
Published by Tin House, 2013

Status: Book is for sale at Current Gallery, as well as original drawings from the book. (“Wild Life Refuge” on view Nov 8 – Dec 1, 2013)

Status: I bought it! More copies available. He also illustrated every page of Moby Dick, also on view.

Baltimore connection: On view at Current Gallery until Dec 1st.

My Connection: I have no personal connections with the artist.

About the author: Matt Kish illustrated every page of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel, Heart of Darkness.

From the publisher: “Kish’s rich, imaginative drawings and paintings mirror Conrad’s original text and illuminate Marlow’s journey into the heart of the Congo, and into the depths of the human soul. Heart of Darkness is a text ripe for analysis
and argument, formally and thematically; it explores matters of imperialism, racism, gender, and the duality of human nature. Kish’s illustrations add another layer, and another voice, to the conversation. His visual interpretation of Heart of Darkness is not just essential for fans and students of Conrad, it’s a work of art all its own.”



Kitsch Encyclopedia
by Sara Cwynar
Co-published with Blonde Art Books
2013, edition of 1000 (plus special limited edition of 20)
176 pages, Full color, Hardcover.

Status: Thinking about it.

Baltimore connection: Sara Cwynar is a NY based artist and Blonde Art Books is based out of Brooklyn, NY.

My Connection: I have no personal connections with the artist.  I am interested in reading theory about the contemporary image world while flipping through a collection of fabulous images.

About the artist: “SARA CWYNAR uses collage and re-photography to make composite images that resemble old advertisements or stock photography. Cwynar is interested in the feelings generated by dated commercial images: with time their visual trickery fails, their seductive power wanes. Her works highlight how the once familiar becomes foreign; how the fetishized object can lose its luster; how glamour can deflate.”

About the Book: Kitsch Encyclopedia is a book project that brings together writings by Milan Kundera, Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard, as well as my own writing to formulate a relationship of kitsch to images. Kundera considers kitsch to be a categorizing phenomenon: a means through which complex human experience is distilled to simple, sentimental motifs. All three writers discuss a similar circumstance of the contemporary image world: the way that our culture of images, especially in the age of the internet, provides an Idealized, kitsch-based image world that exists on top of the real world and in many ways has subsumed it. – Sara Cwynar



* Author Jennifer Coster is an artist living in Baltimore. In 2012 she received an MFA from MICA and founded the publication Print/Collect.

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