'The Illuminated Library': SF State exhibit explores relationship between art, books

Sunday, August 18, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, August 19, 2013 — The new exhibition The Illuminated Library, at San Francisco State University’s Fine Arts Gallery, explores the relationship between artist and author, image and text, illustration and the written word. In addition to historical works, The Illuminated Library showcases a contemporary meditation on artist and author. Diverse styles, unique original art done for children’s books, illuminated musical scores, pop-up books and artists’ books are a few of the many highlights of this fascinating study. The exhibit opens September 21 with a reception and continues through October 17. Admission for the exhibit and related events are free.

Historical manuscripts, illuminated musical scores, contemporary kids’ books with Bay Area artists

The Illuminated Library presents both contemporary and historic explorations of the book form and the relationship of text and image. Contemporary artists participating in the exhibition include: Kim Anno, Tauba Auerbach, Cara Barer, Enrique Chagoya, Travis Collinson, Brian Dettmer, Jason Jägel, Jess, Nina Katchadourian, Judith Lowry, Catherine Opie, Matthew Picton and Clare Rojas. Opie’s piece “Jonathan” makes a direct connection to art and literature with her portrait of best-selling author Jonathan Franzen.

Bay Area publishers such as Children’s Book Press and McSweeney’s McMullens — pairing artists and writers to create children’s books — helped inspire the exhibition. Paintings by Jägel and Rojas, for example, show contrasts between their work in children’s picture books and work on canvas.

This exhibit also highlights collections found on campus in the J. Paul Leonard Library’s Archer, Frank V. de Bellis and Special collections as well as the California State Sutro Library, inspired by the historical marriage of art and literature. Rare illustrated manuscripts from the Sutro include an Italian Book of Hours, an exquisitely preserved Christian devotional book dating to 1450.

The Fine Arts Gallery has also pulled works from the collections of SF State’s Print Archive, which has a longstanding relationship with Bay Area printing presses and local artist/author collaborations. One such collaboration in the show is a broadside created by Jess and poet Robert Duncan in the 1950s, while Duncan was helping develop the University’s Poetry Center.

“There are treasures to be found around every corner of our campus,” says Sharon Bliss, exhibit curator and Fine Arts Gallery manager, “whether it is an artistic collaboration between the school and internationally respected artists such as Jess, the troves of historical gems housed in our beautiful new school library or even the expertise and talents of SF State staff, faculty and students who blur the boundaries of artist and author on a daily basis.”

Students in last semester’s Exhibition Design class helped conduct research for The Illuminated Library. When classes begin in late August, a new group of students will assist with the installation, signage and promotion of the show.

Related events

An accompanying exhibit in the J. Paul Leonard Library, BOOKsmART, uses the collections available to SF State students, faculty and staff to echo the themes in The Illuminated Library. Curators David Funk, Dena Rayess and Justine Wuebold — all recent Art History graduates — focus on artist books, turn-of-the-century paper scraps, illustrated manuscripts and children’s books with LGBTQ themes. This exhibit takes place during Banned Books Week, September 22 – 28, and features several perennial “favorites” on that list, including Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland’s King and King. BOOKSmART is on display through December 20.

BOOKsmART also draws on the academic work of SF State College of Liberal and Creative Arts Associate Dean Susan Shimanoff and the Creative Writing Department, specifically Shimanoff’s research into the use of illustration and text to explore LGBTQ themes in children’s picturebooks. She will moderate an Oct. 1 panel discussion with artists and authors who are combining text and image to convey positive messages around LGBTQ issues.

In addition, SF State has partnered with the Merced branch of the San Francisco public library to feature its collection of LGBTQ children’s picturebooks. Located near SF State at 155 Winston Drive (at 19th Avenue), the library will create a display case that mines the resources of the San Francisco Public Library to explore the “rainbowing” of children’s books through written and visual interactions.

Jason Jägel will give a lecture on campus at 5:30 p.m. September 26, discuss his work and its relationship with text, including his two children’s books.

The Fine Arts Gallery has also joined forces with the Palo Alto Art Center for Bibliophilia, also opening September 21 and curated by Bliss. Bibliophilia features paintings, photographs, drawings and installations by artists united by their love of books and libraries. Artists include Robert Dawson, Emily Payne and Ala Ebtekar.

More information about this event

Media Contact: 

Media Contact: Matt Itelson, 415-338-1442, matti@sfsu.edu, San Francisco State University, College of Liberal and Creative Arts, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, California 94132

News Release