Barbara T. Smith: Proof

Edited by Jenelle Porter and Barbara T. Smith
Contributions by Pietro Rigolo, Gloria Sutton, Catherine Taft, Jenelle Porter, and Barbara T. Smith

Designed by: Content Object, Kimberly Varella with Gabrielle Pulgar
Softcover, 176 pages
Publisher: Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Gregory R. Miller & Company, 2024
ISBN: 9781941366639
Dimensions: 8.25 × 10.5 in.
Copyeditor: Michelle Piranio
Separations: Echelon Color, Los Angeles, CA
Printing: Ofset Yapımevi, Istanbul, Turkey

Barbara T. Smith: Proof is the artist’s first comprehensive catalogue surveying 60+ years of work. The publication celebrates the Southern-California–based artist as not only a pioneer of the performance art movement of the late 1960s but also “a maker of things and an archivist of her output.”

I first encountered the work of Barbara T. Smith during a talk at the LA Art Book Fair in 2015 where she presented her Xeroxed books called Coffins. These books were made on a Xerox machine she leased and installed in her dining room. She described making the books as if riding a machine, smashing her body parts against the glass, attempting to capture every nook, cranny, and crevice of her body. This resonated with me deeply and it was an honor when guest curator Jenelle Porter called me to see if I wanted to design the book for Smith’s forthcoming survey.

For centuries, words like spine, head, foot, and even body have been used as metaphors to describe books. I have always had the compulsion to expand on this, adding such concepts as “the heart of the book” [the center], “the veins of the book” [the sewing], “the lungs of the book” [the sequencing and cadence], or “the skin of the book” [the paper grain], all of which I think about every time I make one.

The design follows that same breath—margins are pressed to the edges but don’t bleed, creating tension. The lightly tinted pink pages of the chronology runs throughout the entire book, making the distinction between chronology and plate indiscernible, “offering proof of a life lived as art.”

Photography by Chris Gardner
Text excerpted from ICA LA