Craft & Conceptual Art: Reshaping the Legacy of Artists’ Books

August 26–October 21, 2023
Main Gallery
Reception: Friday, September 22, 6–8pm

Curated by Megan N. Liberty and organized by Center for Book Arts, this exhibition reconnects artists’ books to craft by creating a meaningful link between conceptual art and craft, historically placed at odds. 

Berwyn Hung, Untitled (Basic Lights)

Craft practices are rooted in a material-specific approach; the same is true for artists’ books, which are medium-specific artworks in book form. The critical issues of craft theory, such as the relationship between the vernacular and the contemporary and anti-establishment and grass roots activities are shared with the book arts, an established discipline of craft arts. Yet the legacy of artists’ books, a subset of book art (which also includes altered books and book sculpture) is often traced back to conceptual art—dominated by white male artists, the dematerialization of the art object, and ephemeral art practices, negating artist books’ earlier connection to the book arts and its place in craft history.

Traveling here from San Francisco Center for the Book, this exhibition will tie artists’ books back to craft, reshaping our understanding of craft history and its influence on conceptual art. The curatorial research methodology is archival, with the goal of a cross-disciplinary show that uses archival materials to present a revised timeline of book art, conceptual art, and craft, alongside artworks from various collections including Center for Book Arts, Harvard, Pace Prints Pace Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library, and MCBA. (The two pieces pictured here are from MCBA’s collection.)

The exhibition catalog is available for purchase here:



Harriet Bart*
Barton Lidice Beneš
Helen M. Brunner
Frances Butler
Sas Colby
Betsy Davids
Agnes Denes
Mirtha Dermisache
Mindell Dubansky
Philip Gallo*
Sharon Gilbert
Jacqui Holmes
Berwyn Hung
Gerald Jackson
Susan E. King
Alison Knowles
Suzanne Lacy
Ellen Lanyon
Gordon Matta-Clark
Richard Minsky
Louise Neaderland
Yoko Ono
Benjamin Patterson
Howardena Pindell
Liliana Porter
Ed Ruscha
Lucas Samaras
Carolee Schneemann
Clarissa Sligh
Barbara T. Smith
Keith Smith
Michelle Stuart
Melody Sumner (Carnahan)
Sylvia de Swaan
Cecilia Vicuña
Reginald Walker

*local artist

Photo by Oswaldo García.

Megan N. Liberty writes about artists’ books, ephemera, and archives. She is the Art Books section editor at the Brooklyn Rail and co-founder of Book Art Review. Her writing appears in Artforumart-agendaArtReviewArt in AmericaBrooklyn RailFriezeHyperallergic, and elsewhere. She lectures about artists’ books widely at conferences and in classrooms. She is currently a Visual AIDS Research Fellow, pursuing further research on Reginald Walker, and was a 2019–20 AICA/USA and Creative Capital/The Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writing Workshop participant. She has an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and a BA in English from Dickinson College, PA.