Last Friday, Printworks marked their 30th anniversary with the opening of their new exhibition, Cover Stories: The Art of the Book Jacket. 18 months ago, gallery directors Sidney Block and Bob Hiebert asked 68 artists to create cover art for a book of their choice for the show, resulting in a unique collection of jacket designs for a range of classics as well as contemporary favorites, from Homer's the Iliad to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
As Marc Pascale, curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings for the Art Institute of Chicago points out, the theme of the exhibit is slightly anachronistic. Digital reading devices have become increasingly popular, eliminating some of the need for attention grabbing, creative book jackets that previously used art, design, and textography to sell a story. Looking at these 68 original designs is an important nod to books as objects that have the ability to present more than just literary art.
Highlights of the show include Audrey Niffenegger’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that shows a blue-aproned Alice tumbling in a swirl of collaged text, and Gladys Nilsson’s cover for Dracula is a colorful portrait of the cloaked vampire under a row of sinister angels. Many of the jackets are trademarked with the artist’s style. Diane Simpson illustrates the Great Gatsby with a cloche and a fedora against an art deco window display, mimicking her sculptural aesthetic. Karen Savage represents Madame Bovary with one of her haunting photograms of old lace gloves, and Karl Wirsum brings Oliver Twist into the present by portraying him as one of his dynamic, cartoonish figures. There really is something for everyone in the exhibition - the only experiential difficulty is the frequent push and pull between choosing a favorite work of art and its accompanying beloved (or loathed) work of literature, as it's hard when you come to admire a particular book jacket, only to find it belongs to a book you may have had a rocky relationship with in the past... With these beautiful works, there is a perhaps a new advantage to judging a book by its cover.
Look out for the new issue of Chicago Gallery News, arriving soon, to read more about Printworks’ 30 year history. CGN Pubisher Ginny Berg spoke with Block and Hiebert about their love of works on paper, the conception of the gallery, and the important relationships they’ve developed with artists over the years. These unique partnerships are more evident than ever. The 86 year-old Block happily said to his many visitors and friends on opening night, "I'm ready for the next 30 years!"
Printworks celebrates the gallery’s landmark anniversary with the exhibit Cover Stories: The Art of the Book Jacket, now through February 12. Featuring 68 artists from the gallery's history: Richard Hunt, Ellen Lanyon, Vera Klement, Gladys Nilsson, Michiko Itatani, Audrey Niffenegger, Karl Wirsum, William Conger, David Sharpe & others
PRINTWORKS GALLERY • 311 W. SUPERIOR, SUITE 105 • CHICAGO, IL 60654 • 312-664-9407
Audrey Niffenegger, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
James Mesple, The Iliad, Homer
Gladys Nilsson, Dracula, Bram Stoker