Jan. 17, 2007

A 'C' of books: Cornellians throng to NYC exhibition

More than 200 people came to view professor of art Buzz Spector's sculpture for the Humanities Book Art Project at a Jan. 11 reception in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning's (AAP) loft space in Manhattan.

The installation, assembled in the days before the reception and centered on a "C"-shaped sculpture of more than 800 arts and humanities books from Cornell authors, is the first major exhibition for both Spector and Cornell in New York City. Many of the artist's friends from the art world, alumni and colleagues attended.

"It's a fantastic use of this space," said Stanley Taft, associate dean of the college. "It brings together a particular community of people -- writers and thinkers -- all associated with Cornell, [and] it represents an exchange of ideas through the layering of books on different subjects."

The exhibition included three other book sculptures by Spector's collaborators, 15 students in the course From Inspiration to Exhibition, and twenty 20-by-24-inch Polaroid prints from the large-format Polaroid camera that documented Spector's work.

"It's almost like seeing old friends," said Anne Kenney, interim university librarian, after looking over the Cornell titles. She and Taft were among the authors who loaned their books for the project.

Originally conceived by Spector to showcase (and document with Polaroids) all of the books published at Cornell in a single year, the project's scope grew to encompass works in the arts and humanities by current and emeritus faculty, as well as staff and students.

"As we talked to Buzz about his concept for the image, we grew excited at the thought of engaging the entire campus," said Linda Grace-Kobas, senior director of the Office of Humanities Communications, one of the project's sponsors. "We also wanted to establish a Cornell presence in New York City, the center of the art world, and have a chance to engage with media in the arts."

Spector told the guests, "This is a material token to something that is ephemeral and weightless and something vital to all citizenship, all discourse."

The exhibition is open through Jan. 19 at Cornell's AAP Center, 50 W. 17th St. The Humanities Book Art sculpture will be reinstalled in a Cornell library location in April. The project's other sponsors are Cornell University Library, the Office of the Provost, AAP and the College of Arts and Sciences.