February 14, 2024

“Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond” at Firestone Library

“BOOKWORKS AND BEYOND”: Princeton University Library will feature works by Ulises Carrión in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library February 21 through June 13. (Photo by Brandon Johnson)

Princeton University Library (PUL) will present “Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond,” the spring exhibition in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library, February 21 through June 13. It is curated by Sal Hamerman, metadata librarian for Special Collections at PUL, and Javier Rivero Ramos, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Art and Archaeology, who is now assistant curator at Art Bridges Foundation in Arkansas.

Carrión was one of the most influential of all modern artists engaged in the book, and this new exhibition will be the largest United States retrospective exhibition of his work to date. It will explore Carrión’s pioneering reinvention of the book as a material and social platform, primarily featuring Princeton’s extensive holdings, drawn from the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology and PUL’s Special Collections. PUL is steward to one of the most substantial collections of Carrión’s book and mail art in any American library.

The exhibition will also incorporate key audio-visual, performative, and printed works on loan from the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (New York), and LIMA (Amsterdam).

Another feature of the exhibition will be a hands-on activity area where visitors can participate in creating and sending their own mail art using postcards and stamps inspired by Carrión’s work. The stamps were made at the PUL Makerspace, which will also host a stamp-making workshop this spring.

An accompanying exhibition catalog, published by Princeton University Press, was made possible by the Friends of Princeton University Library. Other programming related to the exhibition will include a panel discussion to launch the accompanying exhibition catalog on March 6, and an artists’ talk with Alex Turgeon on April 8. Staff from the Center for Book Arts in New York will also lead selected public tours.

Born in San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico, in 1941, Carrión emigrated to Amsterdam in 1972 and joined a dynamic multinational community of artists pushing the boundaries of artistic practices. He eschewed conventional galleries and museums in favor of collaborative “artist-run spaces” such as his own bookstore-gallery, Other Books and So. Carrión also became heavily involved in mail art, a participatory and network-driven practice rooted in the exchange of artworks through the postal system and premised on questions of authorship and originality, that was also an important avenue of communication for artists living in countries governed by authoritarian regimes. Carrión’s community-driven practice fostered extensive cross-cultural exchange between experimental artists working in Latin America and Europe.

“Carrión raised profound questions about the institutions and social conventions that shape our interactions with books, which he put into practice by stewarding artist-run organizations that reimagined how works are created, collected, and exhibited. It is hugely appropriate that this exhibition takes place in a library,” said Rivero Ramos.

In an essay titled “The New Art of Making Books,” Carrión reconceived the book not as a mere physical support for literary expression but as a material, semiotic, and social medium in its own right. His multimedia practice — which encompassed artists’ books, sound poetry, performance, videos, mail art, theoretical writing, publishing, curating, and archiving — is emblematic of the ways that Carrión and his colleagues embraced and radically reconsidered the book within the broader interrogation of language, time, and media that characterized the artistic zeitgeist of the time.

Members of the public are welcome to visit the exhibition between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Guided tours are available to the public.

For more information about the exhibition, tours, and related programming, visit library.princeton.edu/ulisescarrion.