Of his fascination with books, artist and collector Ed Ruscha remarked, “Every day I am reminded how far behind the world of technology I am. I’m not a great reader, either, but I love books, the physical objects of them.” Ruscha’s interest in books as artistic subject matter harks back to his early word paintings of the late 1950s, many of which alluded to popular culture and to Los Angeles, his adopted home. He also conceived the idea of an inexpensive mass-produced artist book, and produced 16 such editions during the 1960s and 1970s.
Now on view in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library is Fanned Book (2013). The monumental painting is part of a series that highlights and magnifies the parts of a book not usually represented in their typical depictions. It shows a book’s fanned pages, stylized edges, and elaborately marbleized decorative end papers. Viewers are not privy to the contents inside. Yet the vibrancy of its parts suggests the kinetic sculptural quality of the whole, reinforcing the artist’s self-proclaimed experience of encountering books as physical objects. Through the generous gift of Sid and Ruth Lapidus, Fanned Book entered N-YHS’ collection during the Summer of 2015.