February 21 - April 29, 2006. Claire Van Vliet & the Janus Press: Celebrating Fifty Years. Curated by Ruth Fine & Neal Turtell.
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February 21- April 29, 2006
Claire Van Vliet & the Janus Press:
Celebrating Fifty Years
Curated by Ruth Fine & Neal Turtell

 

Claire Van Vliet founded Janus Press as a student at San Diego State College in 1955, and after several moves has been based since 1966 in Newark, West Burke, in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. For more than fifty years Van Vliet has functioned as artist, typographer, printer, binder, and publisher producing more than one hundred books, generally in collaboration with a wide network of writers and other book arts practitioners. This survey of books and broadsides produced at Janus Press is the first comprehensive exhibition of the Press's publications to be seen in New York. It will present an overview of publications selected from throughout its fifty-year history, organized in six thematic sections to highlight Van Vliet's particular interests.

The first section, "Defining Directions," will suggest the extensive imaginative range of Van Vliet's concerns as an a book artist/publisher as demonstrated by a selection of publications from Janus' first 25 years. Included will be her first publication, poet John Theobald's An Oxford Odyssey, 1955, illustrated by three of Van Vliet's own wood engravings. Her work as an artist, in particular her interest in landscape imagery, will be highlighted in several publications here including two non-textual books: Some Trees and Bushes and Sun, Sky, and Earth. The first of these is a compilation of woodcuts and lithographs; the second is composed of dye-cut colored acetate and cinemoid gel pages meant to be layered by the reader to create an ever-changing landscape. Van Vliet's predisposition to experiment with book structures and a range of materials and processes is evident in the work by other artists in Janus Press publications. Among these are designer/typographer James McWilliam's N Book, 1964, and Polyurethane Antibook, 1965; photographer Ray K. Metzker's electrostatic prints included in Estelle Leontief's Razerol, 1973, and Margo Lockwood's Bare Elegy, 1980; and Jerome Kaplan's rubber eraser relief prints in Janet Hyholm's From a Housewife's Diary.

A major focus of Janus Press publications has been first edition poetry, but Van Vliet has published a variety of prose pieces and plays as well. The second section of the show "Kafka" will feature a group of texts by Franz Kafka, published between 1962 and 1972. Among them are Parables and Paradoxes, 1963, and Conversation with the Supplicant, 1971, illustrated by lithographs Van Vliet made in Scandinavian print workshops.

Van Vliet's collaborations with Peter and Elka Schumann and the Bread and Puppet Theater (founded in New York in 1962, but based in Vermont since 1974) will comprise the third section of the show, including St. Francis Preaches to the Birds, 1978, with masonite relief prints by Peter Schumann, a book that was produced in two hand-printed versions as well as a trade edition by Chronicle Press.

Among Van Vliet's most original works are those she created using colored paper pulp starting in 1977. Working at the Twin Rocker paper mill in Brookston Indiana with Kathryn and Howard Clark and then the Katie MacGregor and Bernie Vinzani at the mill in Whiting, Maine, as well as at the more modest papermaking facility she set up at Janus Press, Van Vliet has completed numerous books and broadsides in which color pulps act either as substrates, or as component in her increasingly complex illustrations. A selection of these will comprise the fourth section of the show, followed by a section titled "Varied Collaborations" which will suggest the range of writers and artists with whom Van Vliet has worked. Included as well will be books she co-published with Gefn Press, established in 1977 by Susan Johanknecht, who previously had been an intern at Janus Press, one of many interns Van Vliet has helped to train over the years. Van Vliet's majestic illustrations for King Lear, published in 1986 by Michael Alpert at the Theodore Press will be seen as well.

The finale of the exhibition, "Exploring Structures," will include books from the last twenty years, during which Van Vliet has been preoccupied with developing new binding methods as well as new ways of using paper to form illustrations, several of which have been inspired by quilts. New printing techniques, such as laser printing, will be on view as well.

Broadsides, keepsakes, and ephemera will be included as appropriate throughout the show.

Exhibition co-curators are Neal Turtell, Executive Librarian, National Gallery of Art, and Ruth Fine, Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art. Loans will come from the National Gallery of Art Library, a private collection, and Claire Van Vliet.

LOCATION AND TIMES: Claire Van Vliet and the Janus Press: Celebrating Fifty Years will be on view at the Grolier Club from February 21-April 29, 2006. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM. Open to the public free of charge. An illustrated catalogue (8½ x 8½, 80 pp., 32 ill.) giving an overview of the Janus Press, and detailing the work of the past fifteen years, will be available at the Club.

For more information e-mail Megan Smith at the Grolier Club.

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