Barrytown, New York: Space Heater Multiples, 1982. Oblong folio (260 x 370 mm). Embossed title on first leaf. 24 unnumbered leaves, thick Fabriano Rosaspina Avorio paper, with linen cords strung through holes in paper. Bound by the artist in cloth boards. In fine, well-preserved condition. Item #406964
ONE OF ONLY 50 COPIES, signed in pencil and dated "Autumn 1982" at end. This copy number 36.
“Since I was making many ones-of-a-kind images with no text or pictures, [Phil Zimmermann] and I decided upon a sequence created by thread piercing the pages of an otherwise blank book. Turning the pages creates a sound, and several threads piercing pages varies the tension of turning pages. Viewed with a single light source there are cast shadows that vary in focus. I consider Book 91, Sting Book a photographic book" – the artist.
Smith further explained that “This book deals with cast light and shadows. The light spots are caused by viewing the book with a single light source at a 45° angle and three feet to the left of the book. The opened book reveals punched holes with deep shadows. As each page is lifted, however, dark holes throw circular spots of light across the facing page and the close environment of the book. The focus of these spots varies according to the distance from the page to the surface upon which they are cast. Like my books containing photographic film transparencies the composition of each page is compounded and altered by the addition and the movement of the shadow forms across the page…
“The sound, cast light and shadows and their focus and movement are not part of the physical book. They are physical but they only come into existence during the act of experiencing the book, that is, turning the page" (Smith, 200 Books, p.149).
Joanna Drucker, The Century of Artists’ Books (2017), pp. 106-7: “Often referred to as The String Book (Space Heater Multiples, 1982) [it] is constructed of paper and string, without text or images. The structure is such that strings of a set length, knotted and threaded through the paper pages, expand and contract in response to the turning of the pages. The strings are cut to fit the openings and yet to move and breathe with the movement initiated by the reader, sliding with just enough resistance through their paper holes to make a gentle ‘shussing’ sound as they do so. The work…is perfectly engineered. The simplicity of the materials, linen thread and thick, off-white paper, make the book a field for an ongoing experience of space and light. The cast shadows of the various patterns of the string, laid out in straight and crossing grids, with single and multiple threads interacting in a changing sequence of arrangements, are contained within the field of the page, which holds their image against the suspended taut line of the string forms. The whole is physical, sculptural, and textual — an interplay of material (string/paper/knots) and immaterial (shadow/light/sound) elements — which amount to a full experience of book as structure and significance, sense and experience.”
Marcia Reed & Glenn Phillips, Artists and Their Books, Books and Their Artists (2018), pp. 176-7: “In contrast to those casting their artists as star performers, some books are enigmatic to the point of anonymity, offering no clues as to author or subject. A string book produced in an edition of 50, Book 91 deals with its material and structure in the purest fashion. This is a book about the activity of reading, although without text or images; it is all form, producing a beguiling awkwardness that beckons, then disorients. What could be frustrating in fact becomes calming as we leaf through the pages. The book’s structure enforces slow progress through the pages; we experience the added sensory component of noisiness, the sound of cord grating as pages are turned. There is a bit of deliberate trouble as the strings stick. By placing the cords in unexpected places — not sewn into the binding but running through holes in the pages — Smith teaches us implicitly about the structure of books. It is as if we have been ensnared by the book, like a difficult but beloved friend. What makes the viewer respectful and attentive is the elegance of the book’s sculptural quality — nothing more, nothing else to distract or detract from our appreciation of the physical book.”
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Keith Smith at Home (17 February-8 July 2018)
Getty Research Institute, Artists and Their Books, Books and Their Artists (26 June-28 October 2018).
Art Institute of Chicago, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Library of Congress, Getty Museum, Fogg Museum, New York Public Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Victoria and Albert Museum.