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Black in America

Artists’ books have historically been associated with the predominantly white fields of fine press publishing and the art market. The four Black artists represented here are among many voices working today to expand the field and its history, using a broad spectrum of approaches to the bookwork to consider complexities of race, and to embody diverse Black experiences.  

I am / You Are

Tia Blassingame
I Am / You Are
[Los Angeles, California]: Primrose Press, [2018] (I Am); [2019] (You Are)

In these two works, “the artist places herself as a stand-in to explore black womanhood” by combining pressure-printed personal photos with adjectives used to describe Black victims of police violence, the white romantic leads in movies, or Black women in general. Unlike the victims of systemic abuse or subjects of mass media, Blassingame is able to use her position as the artist to “[control] how and how much… detail is shown.” (Quotations from the artist’s website.)

UNC Library Catalog (I Am):
UNC Library Catalog (You Are):

Diamond Stingily
Doing the Best I Can
[Brooklyn, NY]: Façadomy, 2019

“I did the best I could with what I had.” “I don’t know why but sometimes it just be like that.” This booklet accompanied an installation of trophies by Stingily with unconventional messages like these on their bases. It features poems by the artist reflecting on issues of race and privilege in sports, and draws attention to the effects of being the object of spectacle, whether in the art world or athletics.

UNC Library Catalog:

Ben Blount
First Impressions: When was the First Time You Experienced Being "The Other"?
[Chicago?]: [Ben Blount], 2017

Letterpress printer Blount’s book brings together eight personal stories by Black men and women in response to his question: “When was the first time you experienced being ‘The other’?” Answers range from 4 to 12 years old and describe memories ranging from fistfights to segregated services under Jim Crow.

UNC Library Catalog:

Adam Pendleton
Becoming Imperceptible
[Los Angeles, Calif.]: Siglio, [2016]

Working from an archive of found images and texts, Pendleton’s practice springs from his conception of Black Dada. Like the first Dada movement that emerged after World War I, it is a response to the question “How do you respond to state-sanctioned physical and intellectual brutality?” “Becoming Imperceptible… invite[s] the reader in an unfolding conversation about race and history, art and form.” (Quotations from the artist’s statement and the publisher’s website.) 

UNC Library Catalog: