About The Journal of Artists’ Books
Full-sized PDF JAB18 p.4-5 The Journal of Artists’ Books provides a platform for both theoretical and creative expression. As a forum for the study of artists’ books, JAB publishes critical and theoretical articles, reviews of artists' books and exhibitions, and commentary on conferences and and other book art-related activities. JAB also regularly showcases creative work in the form of artists' statements and artist-designed pages and covers.
As a book art project itself, each issue of JAB embodies an interest in all aspects of the production of the journal, incorporating different design elements for each issue and, whenever possible, JAB staff do all the printing of the journal. JAB also sometimes includes various artist-created inserts and booklets or has had the covers letterpress-printed by the designing artist. JAB is published twice a year in the spring and fall at The Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts.
The Journal of Artists’ Books was conceived and first published in 1994 by Brad Freeman in order to provide a forum for critical discussion about artists’ books. Already a well-established book artist, he was motivated to find new ways to engage with the artists’ book community and to encourage much-needed critical writing in the field. Despite the proliferation of artists’ books in the later half of the twentieth century, little critical writing had been produced in response to that body of work.
Full-sized PDF JAB1 p.8-9 From its inception, however, JAB has also been a creative endeavor, showcasing artistic works that range from small inserts to entire issues conceived of by individual artists. The production of the journal itself has always been an integral part of this artistic DIY endeavor. Each issue is edited, designed, and produced by Freeman and collaborating artists and offset printed by Freeman at various print shops across the country from the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to the Center for Editions at Purchase College, SUNY. The artist-designed covers have alternately been printed along with the rest of the issue or produced by the designing artists themselves using their own equipment or that available through residencies at places such as Hatch Show Print.
Freeman’s publication project spanned ten years in its initial iteration of provocative, sometimes controversial publication. Crucial questions about the artistic and economic value of artists’ books accompanied profiles of individuals and institutions with high profiles in the field who were still often little known outside its realm. The place of publication moved with its founder, beginning its life in New York city and moving subsequently to New Haven and Atlanta where it was published under the aegis of Nexus Press until the Nexus doors were closed in 2003. That event saw the close of the first chapter of JAB's life with JAB20 imagined to be the last issue.
Full-sized PDF JAB21 pp. 14-15 After a brief hiatus, however, JAB was resurrected in 2006 in a new guise, this time with an academic affiliation with Columbia College Chicago and its Center for Book and Paper Arts. That same year, the JAB archive of the first ten years of publication was sold to Yale University, thus closing one door even as another door opened.
The first of the new issues, JAB21 was published in the spring of 2007 with a new editorial process in place. JAB, which had always had a semi-formal group of advisors, now had a permanent Editorial Board to discuss, vet, and edit all submissions. The Board was made up of a mix of representatives from Columbia College Chicago and artists/scholars with external affiliations. While the editorial process became more formalized, the production process has remained the hands-on, creative endeavor that it has always been.
The need for critical discussion in the field of artists books remains, with fundamental debates about conceptual and production values still fierce. Classes and programs continue to expand, but no field can mature without critical reflection. JAB has been at the forefront of this activity, and will continue to play an active role going forward.