Language Comes After Artist: The Work of Lynne Avadenka

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Language Comes After Artist

The Work of Lynne Avadenka

Summer 2010 36�h x 54�w relief printing, typewriting, pochoir

Language Comes After Artist

The Work of Lynne Avadenka

The works of Lynne Avadenka are resonant, lyrical yet precise. Even in conversation with the artist in her studio, surrounded by the press, the inks, the marks, the length of table, and the words, one is left with this same impression. It is the combination of things, this infinite gesture built within her exacting compositions, that engages us, at once sequential and breaking code. Avadenka has an inherent respect for process. She often begins with a passage or piece of text meaningful in its content or in terms of its relationship to her personal experience in real time. Some texts serve as markers for a place or journey. Others refer to history, identity, or daily rituals. While in Germany for an artist’s residency, Avadenka incorporated pages of a German dictionary into her prints, and while in Jerusalem as a fellow with the American Academy, she composed collages to mark her stay using texts from the daily Arabic and Hebrew news. She is likely as

inspired by ancient Hebraic texts as the lines of contemporary poets. From the onset, Avadenka’s particular, even idiosyncratic methodology serves as an overlay for what she creates…each step of her process informing the next step…reading to text to image and so on. What is remarkable is the impossibility of knowing exactly where text begins or image ends. Ideas free-run instead in a constant state of translation. The two co-exist, interchangeable, mingling, like twists of rope, articulating one another, like door to hinge. Lynne Avadenka is a visual artist, a printmaker, a maker of books, a conceptualist, a realist, rooted in tradition, and modern. Central to her creative practice is her deep respect for, and close relationship to, books. It is nothing short of love: passionate, an ongoing thoughtfulness and inquiry as to what constitutes the book, its structure, essence, and the experiential nature of its form. Her relationship with books is intimate, an idealistic quest to know everything one can possibly know about this unlikely dog-eared life’s companion…considering its spiritual origins, its physicality, and its enormity in our lives despite our awareness of impermanence.

Language Comes After Artist

The Work of Lynne Avadenka

Then, after all of that, a myriad of affirmations, she takes it all apart, deconstructs the entire notion of the book, like a true revolutionary. Avadenka’s works are sculptural, far-reaching beyond the format of the standard rectangle of paper or page to which we‘ve become accustomed. This is not to suggest her hand-made books are strictly elaborate designs, or devoted to a esthetic re-interpretation. Instead they possess a clarity and vision that is transformative. Avadenka’s constructs and hard-edged folds are visual puzzles and, once realized, allude to new worlds. The artist has no time to pander to preciousness or mistrust considering the future of the book in a digital age. Instead, Avadenka’s life’s work collectively is an expanse…searching, seeking, still uncharted. Visually, Avadenka’s compositions may offer us reassurance in a meaningful biblical passage, or familiar grid from a map to help steady us. But in the beginning of things and the end of things, it is the unfolding, Avadenka’s infinite gesture, that challenges us.

Amanda Krugliak

Arts Curator, University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities

Interview with Lynne Avadenka Artists who produce artist’s books create multiple copies, but in small numbers. Besides swimming against the tide of mass production, they also swim against the stream of changes in the way books are created, presented, and read. Their work stands in contrast to eBooks and online eReaders, which are delivered without the tactile satisfaction of opening a solid cover or turning paper leaves. They pay close attention to book construction, to paper with heft and covers made of texturally interesting material, reflecting their dedication to the book as a physical object of art. I became aware of Lynne Avadenka’s work shortly after I arrived at the University of Michigan Special Collections Library in 1989. Her work embodies books as tactile and beautiful physical objects, whose physicality becomes part of the message they convey. The text is integral to the books, as demonstrated by the fact that she often writes the text herself. Lynne Avadenka’s work is one of the reasons it became our library’s mission to collect important artist’s books made within our state, and it has truly been a privilege to follow her artistic path and acquire what she has created. My interview with Lynne below attempts to bring to light the thoughts, practices, and philosophies upon which her work is based.

Peggy Daub

Curator and Outreach Librarian, University of Michigan Special Collections Library

Language Comes After Artist

Why did you become a printer and book artist? What drew you to this field? An early memory is receiving a speedball calligraphy book and a pen with multiple nibs. Then and now, the shapes of letters, what they look like, what they signify: these elements are fascinating. The ability of an alphabet, really an abstract visual code, to convey meaning, is still magic to me. The notion of the book, both in form and content, led me to printmaking while in college. In graduate school I learned how to set type and bind books in order to create artist’s books. Not books about an artist, or art history, not a typical book with text and matching illustration, but a book that is itself the work of art.

The Work of Lynne Avadenka

You are more interested in words and in texts than many book artists whose work we collect. How do you think about the relationships between the words you write and the art you create? Often the work I make is in response to a text that I am moved by, feel a connection with. I look for texts that are specific, yet universal, that lend themselves to a visual response. Even though an alphabet can be understood to be as abstract as the visual art I’ve created, reading it is something most people are comfortable doing. And a text invites people into the artwork. When I am writing a text for an artist’s book, there is a back and forth between finding a format for the text and writing enough text to collaborate with my own imagery. The creation of my book By a Thread illustrates the way I work. I researched the stories of Queen Esther and Scheherazade and found many

compelling similarities. In thinking about the most effective way to present this information I imagined a conversation between the two women. At the same time, I was refining the structure of the book—the way the reader would move through the story and accompanying imagery. I came up with a structure of nineteen tabbed pages that would carry the text, then wrote the text to fit in the nineteen tabs. Not a conventional creation of a text! It seems particularly fitting that we are able to show exhibits of both your artwork and your artist’s books, as you have created books based on your art, and artwork stemming from your books. How do these two expressive forms feed into each other? I continually seek a complete work that contains both the beauty of gesture and a core of meaning. I engage with classic texts, and the result is synthesis of tradition and modernity. The mark making of printmaking and calligraphy—one repeatable (printed) and the other unique (hand drawn), inspire my art. And this is something I strive to find in both my art and my artist’s books. For me, planning and then executing a limited edition artist’s book takes a long time: conducting research, making many book models, deciding on text, type face, imagery, paper, means of printing, and then finally printing and editioning. In response to this, creating drawings, monoprints, and mixed media works permits a type of directness that is a much-needed contrast in my artistic practice.

Interview continues following gatefold

Language Comes After Artist

Fall 2010 36�h x 54�w relief printing, typewriting, pochoir

“For us, neither departure nor return. Only the long hard trek across the book.”

Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions

After Jabès 2013 18”h x 96”w intaglio, chine colle

How has your work on books changed over the course of your career?

The Work of Lynne Avadenka

Over the years, my book projects have become more complex and the edition numbers have gotten smaller! I have a wonderful working relationship with Linda Lembke, an artist/bookbinder based in Vermont. In collaboration with Linda, I have been able to experiment with innovative binding structures and increase the scale of my work. Several artists in particular have inspired and informed my work: the Russian Constructivist, El Lissitsky (For The Voice, 1923), the Dutch artist/printer H. N. Werkman (Chassidische Legenden, 1941) and the French artist Sonia Delaunay (La Prose du Transsiberien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, 1913). Each of these artists, working in the book format, created art of great power, beauty, and meaning.

Selected Exhibitions 2013

Metamorphosis and Flux, H Project Space, Bangkok, Thailand Subject and Object, The Museum of Biblical Art, New York, NY Words Like Sapphires, The Hebraic Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 2012

Saxe Invitational, Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California 2011

Reunion of Broken Parts, The Jerusalem Print Workshop, Jerusalem, Israel (solo) Art X Detroit, Museum of Contemporary Art of Detroit 2010


A Thousand and One Inventions, Hadassah Brandeis Institute, Waltham, Massachusetts (solo) Speaking in Codes: Avadenka, Stoller Awend, Ondrizek, Form and Content Gallery, Minneapolis, MN 2007

Eindruck, Center for Book Arts, New York, New York (solo) Signs, Symbols and Gestures, The Gallery Project, Ann Arbor, Michigan 2004

Ninety from the Nineties: A Decade of Printing, The New York Public Library, New York, New York 2003

Galerie Eva Bracke, Berlin, Germany (solo)

Aftermath, HUC-JIR Museum, New York, New York (solo)

No Translation Required: Artists’ Books in Germany and Georgia, various international venues

Girl Printers, Union College, Schenectady, New York


Then and Now, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan (solo) New Works/Old Stories, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco


New Acquisitions, The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio 1999

The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan (solo)


The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, New York (solo) 1996

From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, various United States museums 1997

Fifteen Visions of Book Art, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1983

Willis Gallery, Detroit, Michigan (solo) Selected Grants a n d Awa r d s 2013

Institute for the Humanities Visiting Fellow, The University of Michigan 2011

Fellow, American Academy in Jerusalem, Foundation for Jewish Culture Commission, Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California Factory/Artist Exchange, Bullseye Glass, Portland, Oregon


Fellow, Kresge Arts in Detroit, a program of The Kresge Foundation Dorothy Saxe Prize, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco Commission, The Jewish Museum of New York 2008

Residency, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Waltham, Massachusetts 2007

Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship, New York, New York 2006

Residency, Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Schwandorf, Germany 2005

Residency, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Amherst, Virginia 2004

Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award, Waltham, Massachusetts 1998

Maas Prize, Benard L. Maas Foundation, Detroit Michigan


Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, New York 1983

The National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship 1982

Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel The Jewish Museum, New York, New York Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Museum Meermanno, The Hague, The Netherlands

Michigan Council for the Arts Creative Artist Grant

The National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Selected Collections

The New York Public Library, New York, New York

Auckland City Library, New Zealand The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York Bibliotecha Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Bibliothek zu Berlin The British Library, London, England The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, Los Angeles, California Houghton Library, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio The University of Michigan, Special Collections, Ann Arbor, Michigan Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut E d u c at i o n 1978

Bachelor of Fine Arts Wayne State University 1981

Master of Fine Arts Wayne State University

L a n d M a r k s P r e ss Limited edition books

Midrash 1980 6”h x 7”w Edition: 15 accordion book, letterpress printing, lithography with chine colle From Old Songs: Native American Poetry 1980 11¼”h x 10”w Edition: 10 letterpress printing, color lithography Cadences Date: 1981 7½”h x 56”w Edition: 10 color lithography, letterpress printing Chances 1981 3½”h x 32”w Edition: 10 color lithography

Colors for Max 1983 7 1⁄8”h x 32”w Edition: 7 letterpress printing, woodcut

Understanding 1988 5”h x 27”w Editions: 75 letterpress printing, die-cutting

Landmarks 1983 3 5⁄8”h x 33”w Case closed size: 9¾“h x 9¼“w Editions: 5 lithography

An Only Kid 1990 11¼”h x 8”w Edition: 75 letterpress printing from metal type and magnesium cuts

The Song of Songs 1984 9½”h x 42”w Edition: 20 color intaglio, letterpress printing

The Uncommon Perspective of M. E. J. Colter Date: 1992 12¼”h x 23”w 100 pulp painting, letterpress printing

A Meditation 1986 7”h x 10”w Edition: 90 letterpress printing, die-cutting Sign Painter 1986 3½”h x 7¾”w Edition: 6 letterpress printing, color lithography

I Am Sitting Here Now Author: Yehuda Amichai 1992 11”h x 17½”w Edition: 25 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates, mezzotint

The Poem of Chalk Author: Philip Levine 1995 12”h x 9”w Edition: 9 Materials: paper letterpress printing, mezzotint Compassion 1996 7”h x 11¼” open Edition: 50 letterpress printing, die-cutting Grandpa Isidore Author: Amos Oz 1997 13”h x 18½”w (page spread) Edition: 50 letterpress printing, intaglio, chine colle Boundaries of the Universe 1998 12”h x 18”w Edition: 10 intaglio, letterpress printing from wood type and photopolymer plates

Breathing Mud: The Story of the Golem 1999 Size: 8½”h x 7½”w Edition 35 letterpress printing from metal plates, hand coloring A Journey to the End of the Millennium Author: A. B. Yehoshua 1998/1999 9½”h x 42”w Edition: 30 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates, wood type, linoleum Root Words In collaboration with Mohamed Zakaria 2001 Size: 12”h x 77”w Edition: 30 letterpress from photopolymer plates, lithography

Lynne Avadenka: The Work of Art in the Wake of Sept. 11 Author: Vince Carducci 2003 10”h x 9¾”w Edition: 150 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates Detail: for Lynne Avadenka Author: Lynn Crawford 2003 Size: 10¾”h x 18”w (page spread) Edition: 35 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates and wood type, pressure printing The Book of Ruth Date: 2004 Size: 6¾”h x 8¼” (page spread) Edition: 75 pressure printing, relief printing, letterpress printing from photopolymer plates

By A Thread 2006 Size: 9”h x 64”w Edition: 300 color offset lithography, die-cutting Six Poems Author: Dan Pagis 2007 Size: 11”h x 22”w Edition 15 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates, lithography, hand coloring Lamentations 2009 Size: 12”h x 28”w Edition: 8 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates, pochoir, woodcut Plum Colored Regret 2010 Size: 12”h x 12”w (page spread) Edition: 25 paper, vellum letterpress printing from photopolymer plates and wood type, lithography

The Solutions to Brian’s Problem Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell 2011 Size: 6 3⁄8”h 43⁄8”w Edition: 20 letterpress printing from photopolymer plates, pochoir, colored wood veneer One By One 2011 Size: 8½”h x 50”w Edition: 20 letterpress printing from wood and metal type and photopolymer plates Jerusalem Calendar Date: 2012 Size: 7½” x 7½” (print size) Edition: 18 letterpress printing, digital printing

Language Comes After Artist The Work of Lynne Avadenka March 21 – May 17, 2013 Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan Contributors

Amanda Krugliak, curator, Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan Peggy Daub, curator and outreach coordinator, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan Language Comes After Artist

This catalog was made possible by the University of Michigan Library. Language Comes After Artist: The Work of Lynne Avadenka is a project of the U-M Institute for the Humanities, with support from the University of Michigan Library and the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. Curator: Amanda Krugliak Publicity: Stephanie Harrell Catalog design: Savitski Design Photography: R. H. Hensleigh Portrait and studio photo: Sarah Nesbitt

Spring 2010 36�h x 54�w relief printing, typewriting, pochoir

Winter 2010 36�h x 54�w relief printing, typewriting, pochoir

offset lithography, die-cutting

relief printing, typewriting, pochoir

8”h x 60”w

36”h x 54”w



By A Thread



Cover Still(s) V (detail) 2012 powdered graphite and paint 14”h x 126”w (detail 14”h x 36”w)

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