From the Archives:


"Ruined Bookshelf" by Judith Tallichet

Jude Tallichet, Ruined Bookshelf, 2010,
bronze, 83 x 48 x 19 in. Courtesy the artist

October 7–December 11, 2011
Curated by Mary Birmingham

From Art Center Curator, Mary Birmingham:

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Bibliomania, a group exhibition I organized during the fall of 2011 that examined the book as subject matter in contemporary art. At that time, the very concept of the book was evolving and expanding—most notably in the direction of digital media (a revolution that continued throughout the ensuing decade.) At that time, I found it ironic that as the content of books became increasingly more accessible through electronic readers and digitization, many artists were paying attention to books as material objects, challenging viewers to consider the roles and meaning of books in our lives. While the e-book dematerializes the book’s content, it is the materiality of the printed book that attracts some contemporary artists, like those in Bibliomania.

Click here for the exhibition catalogue.

One image that stays with me from that show is Jude Tallichet’s life-size bronze sculpture cast from a mold of a collapsed bookshelf that held her art books and catalogues (see above). This ruined bookcase was a monument to the ephemeral and a poignant suggestion of civilization in decline. It remains a powerful image that resonates in new ways today, as we quarantine with our books and digital media during the current pandemic.

“Part of my own brick and mortar library suffered the peculiar fate of being crushed under its own weight: One day the old wooden bookcase into which I had piled all of the oversized art books and catalogs I have acquired in a lifetime of bibliomania simply imploded. Pinned between a desk and a wall, however, the bookcase could not simply collapse into chaos. The top shelves pancaked down onto the lower shelves one after another, compressing and distorting themselves under their own weight, bowing out the sides of the mutilated bookcase. The result was sublime; a beautiful synthesis of life and death and knowledge and loss that came to me by accident.”—Jude Tallichet

As part of our exhibition archive, we documented the installation of this monumental work. These behind-the-scenes photographs reveal some of the challenges we faced. The sculpture is cast bronze, 83 inches high, somewhat precariously balanced, and extremely heavy. We had to remove the front doors of the Art Center, drive the crate into the building on a forklift truck, and carefully place it into the gallery. The result was a show-stopper, and worth all of the effort.