Publishing Granary’s Books: A Conversation in the Margins
A retrospective of independent publisher Granary Books, "Publishing Granary’s Books: A Conversation in the Margins," will open at The University of California at San Diego’s Mandeville Special Collections Library on April 26th and run until June 27th. A unique and significant small publisher, Granary Books has been bringing together writers, artists and bookmakers to investigate verbal/visual relations for nearly twenty years. They seek to "produce, promote, document and theorize new works exploring the intersection of word, image and page."
The show, curated by Elaina Ganim, includes all of their publications to date, 119 titles divided into: Collaborations, Anthologies, Poetry, Prose, Memorybooks, Typographic Books, Book Objects, and Scholarly Publications. Each category focuses on the role that publisher Steve Clay plays as facilitator and collaborator in devising book projects. A matrix of ideas forms around a book generating a profoundly collaborative process. Further, the reader is an essential part of making the book a communal theater of experience and an instrument for action. To paraphrase Johanna Drucker: The physical book can be almost incidental, a freeze frame of a process that continues through time.
Limited edition books, book objects, pamphlets, and broadsides are accompanied by materials from Granary’s own archive, including: proofs, page spreads, drafts, mock-ups, e-mails, and letters. This supplemental material provides a window into the collaborative process illustrating the book’s history. Collaborators comment on their book’s post-publication existence with texts about their further work and reactions from their readers.
Trade edition books are displayed along a time-line on the main wall of the gallery. Visitors are encouraged to read the books, which hang freely from the wall by looped wires. The wall on which these books appear is a physical/ideological map of the terrain from which the book projects emerged.
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla is hosting a companion exhibit "An Exhibition of a Single Book" focusing on the production of one particular limited edition book, The Traveler and the Hill and the Hill by Lyn Hejinian and Emilie Clark. This exhibition highlights the collaborative process including extensive correspondence between the authors, Clay and the printer, Philip Gallo. There are also several large scale monoprints on display that were early versions of the work that Clark produced in the book.
Granary is also involved with a wide community of writers, poets and artists. For years they occupied a gallery space in Soho, hosting public events, lectures and readings, and curating exhibits related to books, book art, poetry and writing. In their new location in Chelsea they still host book gatherings and also work with the preservation of archives, manuscripts and rare books by contemporary writers and artists.
Publishing, preservation and community outreach has significant long-term implications for the fields of writing and book art as a whole. Granary also publishes scholarship investigating an emerging history of small press publishing, poetry and artists’ books including: Drucker’s The Century of Artists’ Books, Jerome Rothenberg and Clay’s A Book of the Book, and Clay and Rodney Phillips’s A Secret Location on the Lower East Side.
Granary is committed to "publishing innovative writing and visual work, observing progressive scholarship and supporting adventurous book making in the context of exploring the relationships between seeing and reading, reading and seeking." This retrospective shows they have done that.