A Primer of Modern Art

2007 16X20

Designing for People

2007 16X20

Developing Maintenance and Time Standards

2008 16X20

Durer in America

2007 16X20

Durer und Seine Zeit

2007 16X20

Elementary and Classical Physics

2007 16X20

Fantasy and Symmetry

2007 16X20

Geography

2007 16X20

Handbook of Plastics and Elastomers

2007 16X20

Letters to My Father

2007 16X20

Posters

2007 16X20

Russian Art

2007 16X20

Silence

2008 16X20

The Benedictional of St. Ethelwold

2007 16X20

The Complete Book of Collecting Art Nouveau

2007 16X20

The De-definition of Art

2007 16X20

The Life of the Book

2007 16X20

The Phantasies of a Prisoner

2007 16X20

The Works of Colonel John Trumball

2007 16X20

With Love and Irony

2007 16X20

Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and
frees them.

—Samuel Butler, Samuel Butler’s Notebooks, 1912

The book has long been a mainstay of creative inspiration in Doug Manchee’s prodigious artwork. Series including 20 Works of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2006-ongoing) and Concretions (2003-2006)) examined the disseminating cultural role of the photographic reproduction in illustrated publications. While these extended bodies of work were ostensibly concerned in what lays within a book’s text block of pages, a more recent series Due Date (2007-ongoing) practically disregards the text block altogether. Here Manchee concentrates on the leaves of the front or back endpapers. While endpapers have a critical function in securing a book’s text block to its cover, they also serve as discursive fields of information and communication.

Books borrowed through a public or university library was a habitual occurrence for many of us who came of age in the twentieth century and prior to the advent of today’s information age, with its seemingly unlimited access to the virtual book. Back then we stood at the circulation desk, patiently waiting as a librarian dutifully stamped, in mimeograph-purplish ink, a return date on a circulation card, located in a pouch pasted to a book’s endpapers. Over time circulation cards were pulled from books as new computerized databases came online and librarians found themselves haphazardly imprinting stamped dates or affixing the now ubiquitous bar code to a book’s endpapers. It is just these kinds of artifacts, along with a bookplate or a prior owner’s signature, which fixed Manchee’s attention for the series Due Date.

As the artist has noted about this series, the layering of information on a book’s endpapers mesmerized him. He wondered about the numerous anonymous hands that imprinted dates, adhered blank circulation slips and pouches, or assigned bar codes. All of these artifacts refer to technologies, both old and new, serving to track a library book’s usage, its managed circulation through time, place and users, as well as its dormant life residing on a library shelf.

While in earlier series, Manchee made great use of digital imaging to build layers of information via scanning, in Due Date, with the stratums of information already present, he utilized dramatic lightening to highlight not only the white expanse of a book’s endpapers, replete with detail, but to elicit the materiality of the book itself. The resultant images are memorable, unfamiliar portraits of a most familiar object.

–Therese Mulligan
Director, School of Imaging Arts and Sciences Gallery
Rochester, 2007