UA Little Rock to host Cuban artists’ book exhibit

One of 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, on display at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Ottenheimer Library March 14 to April 19.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host an international exhibit of handcrafted books created by Cuban artists. 

The March 14 to April 19 multimedia exhibit, “Binding Communities: Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía and the Art of the Book and Entrepreneurism,” will be displayed in UA Little Rock’s Ottenheimer Library.

The exhibit will feature 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, from 1985 to 2016. Founded in 1985 by Rolando Estévez and Alfredo Zaldívar, Ediciones Vigía artisans in Matanzas, Cuba, created handmade books using collaged, repurposed materials.

According to an article by Kim Nochi, Ediciones Vigía originally served as a meeting place for artists and writers to discuss their work. They began creating artistic fliers to advertise their meetings. This eventually grew into an independent publishing house that creates handmade interactive works of book art that are internationally renown.

Ediciones Vigía came of age during the economic depression in Cuba that followed the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Throughout the 1990s, an extreme shortage of paper and materials — not to mention food, petroleum, medicine, and other basic resources — exacerbated the difficulties of publishing in Cuba,” said Dr. Erin Finzer, chair of the UA Little Rock Department of World Languages.

The publishing house responded to the shortage of paper by seeking out diverse, talented young authors to publish in limited edition artists’ books.

“Community members from Matanzas would gather to piece together these books out of found materials and butcher paper, which was relatively inexpensive and more readily available than bleached white paper,” Finzer said. “These precious books quickly earned an artistic cachet that led established authors to want their texts to be interpreted by Ediciones Vigía.” 

One of 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, on display at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Ottenheimer Library March 14 to April 19.
One of 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, on display at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Ottenheimer Library March 14 to April 19. Photo by Carly Machin/UA Little Rock Communications.

The exhibit will open with a reception and talk with Bill Fisher, a San Antonio-based lawyer and rare book collector whose Ediciones Vigía collection will be featured in the exhibit. The reception, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in Ottenheimer Library Room 535.

The exhibit will also include a March 17 lecture by Steven Miller, a book artist and University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa professor who has collaborated with Cuban artists to create book editions.

Additionally, Miller will lead a bookmaking workshop during the weekend of March 18-19 in the UA Little Rock Applied Design Studio at University Plaza 300.

Other events include a March 29 bookmaking workshop by book artist David Clemons and Finzer; student presentations and a closer examination of select Vigia books on April 6; an April 12 screening of Ediciones Vigía: Poetíca visual/Visual Poetics and a scholar-led tour of the exhibit by Finzer; and a closing reception and lecture by Vigía scholar and filmmaker, Dr. Juanamaría Cordones Cook, on April 14.

All events are free and open to the public. Class sizes for the bookmaking workshops are limited. Those interested in attending the workshops should RSVP to Mia Hall, chair of the UA Little Rock Department of Art and Design, at mphall@ualr.edu or Finzer at esfinzer@ualr.edu.

A complete list of programming for the exhibit includes:

  •      Opening reception and talk with rare book collector Bill Fisher. 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14. Ottenheimer Library Room 535. 
  •      Lecture/Artist Talk by book artist Steven Miller. 5 p.m., Friday, March 17. UA Little Rock Fine Arts Building Room 161. 
  •     Get Under The Covers. Let’s Make Books!” Bookmaking workshop with book artist Steven Miller. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and Sunday March 19. Applied Design Studio, University Plaza 300. Participation is limited. Please RSVP to Mia Hall at mphall@ualr.edu.
  •      Bookmaking workshop and lecture: “The Committed Art of the Book” by book artist David Clemons and Dr. Erin Finzer. 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29. Applied Design Studio, University Plaza 300. Participation is limited. Please RSVP to Mia Hall at mphall@ualr.edu. 
  •      Up Close and Personal: Student Presentations of Select Vigía Books. 3 p.m. Thursday, April 6. Ottenheimer Library Room 535.
  •      Screening of Ediciones Vigía: Poetíca visual/Visual Poetics with scholar-led tour of exhibit by Dr. Erin Finzer. 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 12. Ottenheimer Library Room 535. 
  • Closing reception and lecture by Vigía scholar and filmmaker Dr. Juanamaría Cordones Cook. 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 17. Ottenheimer Library, Room 535.
One of 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, on display at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Ottenheimer Library March 14 to April 19.
One of 71 artists’ books created by the Cuban publishing house, Ediciones Vigía, on display at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Ottenheimer Library March 14 to April 19. Photo by Carly Machin/UA Little Rock Communications.
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