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Multi-colored pocket booklets laid out in a semi-circle pattern

In the Library: Time/Travel through Artists’ Books

Past Exhibition

June 18 – September 17, 2021
East Building, Ground Floor, Study Center

Weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The National Gallery of Art Library has a distinctive and respected collection of artists’ books. The Library’s holdings of this expansive format incorporate everything from Ed Ruscha’s seminal black and white photobook 26 Gasoline Stations to Julie Chen’s intricate, multipiece constructions of distinctive color palettes, and a wide variety in between. The familiarity of the book form draws viewers into artists’ books — the intimate, hand-held size of some, the appearance of a narrative in others. In some cases, ordinary structures carry profoundly personal stories. In others, the intricate engineering is the book’s main subject.

Time/Travel is a selection of artists’ books, all by women artists, that explores universal themes through an eclectic selection from the past 50 years.

Selected Works

Time and travel are themes that easily intermingle. Experiences of time and travel can be slippery in the mind or indelible. We experience both, to some degree of awareness, during every waking moment and they are part of the mundane as well as the remarkable experience of living. Time can be a fraction of a second or an epoch; time can appear to be lost in a state of flow. Travel can be from the bed to the bookshelf, or in the imagining of other dimensions. Both are sensory experiences that may involve an intuitive sense of passage or direction, yet concrete tools such as a compass or a watch can provide tracking. We leave certain places; we arrive at certain times. The desire to record time and travel is common — calendars, day books, snapshots, postcards, letters, sketchbooks, social media posts, ticket stubs, receipts, maps. Sharing and revisiting these records can be poignant, whether they are our own records or not. Artists' books combine visual and textual record, rumination, and exploration in a way other works of art cannot.

The books selected for this exhibition from the collection of the National Gallery of Art Library explore memory and history, paths of travel, familiar and unfamiliar places, and evidence of the passage of time. Works in the exhibition include Jill O’Bryan’s Breaths III (2019), a tactile record of the passage of time, the artist counting and marking each breath with a pin prick on a sheet of paper; Athena Tacha’s series of simply typed, printed, and folded colored pamphlets, each representing a time and place in her life over the span of five decades; Ginger Burrell’s 26 Charging Stations (2014), a riff on Ed Ruscha’s seminal classic 26 Gasoline Stations (1962), reflecting changes in technology and public sentiment in the intervening decades; and Clarissa Sligh’s Voyage(r): Tourist Map to Japan (2000), a book about travel and movement in a specific place as well as her reflections on cultural assumptions, both as traveler and tourist.

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Admission is always free and passes are not required.

Banner detail: Athena Tacha, Athena Tacha Pocket Booklets Set, Oberlin, Ohio: Athena Tacha, 1972-2015, David K. E. Bruce Fund