Selections from the Sackner Collection: The Association for Study of Arts Materials

Selections from the Sackner Collection: The Association for Study of Arts Materials

Written by Diane Dias De Fazio, Curator of Rare Books & Book Arts

 

Well, konnichiwa.

ASA journal 1-7, 1965-1974

 

The University of Iowa Special Collections announced the arrival of The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Collection of Visual and Concrete Poetry last May, and as the news rippled out across the special collections universe, excitement—and chatter—about the vast collection grew. It’s my great pleasure to share this first post, as we begin a series that highlights interesting and rare material in the Sackner Collection.

First up: Association for Study of Arts, or ASA. Specifically, the ASA (journal) and ASA Group exhibition catalogs (1969–1973).

ASA 1970 exhibition catalog

As a scholar of art history (and as a point of personal pride), it gives me great joy to state that UI Special Collections is the only institution* to hold a full run of ASA; UI Special Collections is likewise the only institution that has a complete set of the group’s exhibition catalogs. 

From a curatorial perspective, it is significant that these important Japanese-language items are available to University of Iowa students and faculty, something that bolsters curricula in creative writing, art, and undergraduate and graduate programs in Japanese. Special Collections already includes Japanese paper, artists’ books, and cookbooks; the ASA Group materials will add new dimension to extant Japanese collection materials, complement Library poetry holdings, and have the potential to draw international researchers to Iowa City. 

Part of the Multifaceted Sackner Collection

The scope of Ruth and Marvin Sackner’s collecting was expansive—there is mail art, artist publishing, book works, periodicals on artists’ books, critical studies and exhibition checklists, audio and video, in more than a dozen languages—but the core is solidly focused on concrete and visual poetry. What’s concrete poetry? you ask. While I defer to my colleague, Tim Shipe, to answer that question, I offer this definition from Oxford Art Online (which you can access from home if you have a HawkID, or another institutional affiliation that provides access):

“[An] Art form developed in the 1950s and 1960s based on the visual aspects of words. In contrast to ‘shaped’ poetry, in which the meaning of a text is enhanced by the relationship between a sequence of lines and the overall pattern or silhouette that these lines create on a page … Concrete poetry largely dispenses with conventional line and syntax. It may bring into use not only a wide range of typefaces (see Typography) but also other elements derived from calligraphy, collage, graphics and computer-generated shapes. It can appropriately be considered a visual art, though it is also a literary one.”

Got it? Concrete poetry straddles the realms of visual and literary arts. It’s a perfect fit for Special Collections!

Two concrete poems by Toshihiko Shimizu, “Portrait of L.J.” (Tribute to Amiri Baraka), and “text”.

Seiichi Niikuni & Concrete Poetry in Japan

Japanese poet Seiichi Niikuni (1925–1977), influenced by e. e. cummings, John Cage, Sakutarō Hagiwara, and Stéphane Mallarmé, studied literature in Sendai, and was first published in Japanese literary journal Hyōga in 1952. By the early 1960s, Niikuni moved to Tokyo, and was independently publishing his own journal that showcased concrete poetry, known in Japanese as: Konkurīto poetori. Niikuni named the journal after his group, the Association for Study of Arts (芸術研究協会 Geijutsu Kenkyū Kyōkai), or simply, ASA.

The journals contain essays, reviews, and work by luminaries Ilse and Pierre Garnier, Timm Ulrichs, Harry Guest, Bob Cobbing, Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Furnival, and Iowan Mary Ellen Solt (who edited Concrete Poetry: a World View). Two issues in the series are hand-inscribed by Niikuni to Emmett Williams, himself an icon in the Fluxus Movement, which makes our copies even more valuable, for their association with two important figures in the history of contemporary art.

 

 

Mary Ellen Solt’s energetic “Zigzag”.
Two copies, inscribed by Niikuni to Fluxus pioneer Emmett Williams.

Four exhibition catalogues hint at the breadth of the group’s influences and impact: the 1970 exhibition featured films by Norman McLaren alongside two-dimensional visual poetry.

Interested in seeing more? The Sackner Collection will be available in January, and you’ll be able to request this material with your Aeon account

 

 

 

 

 

*Our friends at the Getty Institute have a set; a full collection is not known to exist, in private or public hands, though Japanese institutional records are vague.

—-Photos by Diane Dias De Fazio, unless otherwise noted

Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm

Olson Graduate Assistant Acquisitions Project

Olson Graduate Assistant Acquisitions Project

Every year, Special Collections hosts two Olson Graduate Assistants who have chosen to specialize in the field of Special Collections Librarianship or Archives for a two-year assistantship. These prestigious positions supplement knowledge gained in the classroom with experience gained from real-world application, balancing theory with practice.

The H. John and Florence Hawkinson Libraries Acquisition Endowment has introduced an exciting new element to this experience: in the second year of their assistantship, the Olson Graduate Assistant can now be given a budget for material acquisitions. The Graduate Assistant chooses a curatorial area of interest in alignment with collection strengths, and works with the Curator in that area to learn about the material selection process. They may attend meetings with book artists and book dealers, peruse catalogs, and search online for the right item(s). They then formally recommend items for purchase and, once the Curator approves of the recommendation, are looped in on the relevant communication. This is a spectacular learning opportunity for them, and a valuable way for Curators to remain in touch with how the next generation of librarians is approaching the work of acquisitions.

This year, Olson Graduate Assistant Micaela Terronez selected four items that will be purchased for the Special Collections department using the Hawkinson Endowment. Working with Head of Special Collections, Margaret Gamm, Micaela located materials that would either develop or fill in gaps within the collections. Below, Micaela has provided a brief description of the selected works and why she was interested in them.

 

Forming Common Threads

By Mari Eckstein Gower

Redmond, Washington: Mari Eckstein Gower, 2018.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the vibrant colors and structure of Mari Eckstein Gower’s Forming Common Threads. The artist’s book features beautiful watercolor paintings by the artist, as well as silk and paper threads attached to a series of words such as “inspire,” “support,” and “heal.” Gower’s work links the many stories of strong women from history in contrast to the toxic and misogynistic rhetoric she grew up with.  From the Japanese Tarasen patterned papers to the modified stitched drumleaf format, I was also interested in this book because of the multitude of materials and techniques utilized in its creation.

Vamp and Tramp description

 

Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm

Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm
Images of Gabrielle Cooksey’s book courtesy of Vamp and Tramp website

By Gabrielle Cooksey

Tacoma, Washington: Gabrielle Cooksey, 2018.

Anyone that knows me well knows I absolutely hate bugs. Spiders, flies, beetles – I squirm at the sight of them all. Gabrielle Cooksey’s Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm has officially changed my mind about the beauty of these tiny creatures. Included in the artist’s book are twelve aluminum beetles with stories from the author, as well as Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Darwin, Hans Christian Anderson, and Aesop. The book, bound in Cave Paper, was meant to mirror a research field guide. Perhaps one day I’ll have the courage to do my own research on insects. Until then, I think I’ll stick to examining and admiring them from afar with the help of Cooksey’s work. The book will certainly be an enchanting addition to the artists’ books collections.

Vamp and Tramp description

 

One Day · Un Día

By Alex Appella
San Antonio de Arredondo, Córdoba, Argentina: Alex Appella, 2018.

I am not a native Spanish speaker, but the language certainly carries an emotional connection to my roots and upbringing. Some of my earliest memories of Spanish, for example, originate from daily experiences with my grandparents. One Day · Un Día by Alex Appella utilizes bilingual text (Spanish, English) and a collage of family photographs to document the last day of her grandfather’s life and the last days of her mother’s life. By interweaving family and language, Alex Apella’s work recalled memories of my childhood with my grandparents – both living and passed. When I first arrived at Iowa, I had a difficult time locating bilingual, visual works in Spanish and English. Now, I hope that this work will supplement research, teachings, and emotional reunions. 

Vamp and Tramp description

 

Enumerations

By Stephanie Gibbs

Los Angeles: Stephanie Gibbs, 2018. 

As a humanities-focused graduate student, I rarely have the opportunity to truly explore the sciences. Mathematics, in particular, has never been my strongest point. Anyone else still count with their hands, or is it just me? Whether you are a science enthusiast or not, Enumerations by Stephanie Gibbs will allow you to consider the interesting intersections between the sciences and humanities. Designed within a clamshell box, the artist’s book includes different forms of memory and computing. A slide rule, memory diagram, diskettes, and Trigonometry screenprints are just a few of the interesting components. Enumerations also includes Ada Lovelace’s description of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. I’m incredibly excited to add another bookwork representing women in science to the collections.

Vamp and Tramp description 

 

Thank you to Margaret Gamm and Micaela Terronez for sharing this experience with us. 

New Acquisition: The Battle Creek System of Health Training

By Jacque Roethler

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was opened in 1866 by John Harvey Kellogg and his brother W. K. Kellogg, promoting health through a regimen of dietetics, exercise, hydrotherapy, phototherapy, thermotherapy, electotherapy, mechanotherapy, and enemas. They were joined in this enterprise by C.W. Post. In some areas they were ahead of their time, such as their emphasis on a low fat diet including whole grains, fiber-rich foods, and nuts, as well as getting lots of fresh air and exercise. But other areas were on the fringe and were open to ridicule, such as the treatment the Sanitarium received in the book and movie The Road to Wellville, the title of which is a spoof of John Harvey Kellogg’s book The Road to Wellness. The Sanitarium suffered during the depression and was scaled back in 1933 and permanently closed in 1952. What lives on are the cereals created by the Kelloggs and C.W. Post Companies, derivatives of the healthy foods promoted by the Sanitarium.

2015-09-02 11 33 03In the Brinton collection we recently found these books, entitled The Battle Creek System of Health Training. While not emanating from the Sanitarium, the books are from Battle Creek’s Health Extension Bureau and carry a publication dates of 1922 and 1924, during the height of the Sanitarium’s popularity. There were seven volumes in the series: 1) Making Life Worth While; 2) Taking a Health Inventory; 3) The Digestibility of Different Foods; 4) Foods and Feeding; 5) Diet in Disease; 6) Weight Regulation; and 7) Simple Remedies for Common Maladies.

The books in this collection are in near perfect condition. Unfortunately volumes 3 and 4 are missing so this is not a complete set. On a search in OCLC First Search, only four other libraries were named as having these volumes.

New Evidence Confirms 1973 Movement to Rename the Field House for the Allman Brothers Band

New at the UI Archives: 1970s-era posters for events at Hancher Auditorium, the Iowa Memorial Union and the UI Fieldhouse. For a brief but intense time in 1973 and ’74 there was a move afoot to rename the Field House for the Allman Brothers Band, which had a memorable gig there on Nov. 9, 1973. The posters are evidence of this unofficial, ill-fated, but totally sincere effort. CUE, the Commission for University Entertainment, was a student organization that encouraged the campaign. Many thanks to Tim Meier of the Hancher Auditorium office for arranging for transfer of these materials to the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.