ET IN ARCADIA EGO: A FINE PRINTING PASTORALE IN NORTHERN ITALY
by Martin Antonetti
Bookways, July 1993




Angela Lorenz is a book artist; furthermore, she is the only person I visited on my fine printing tour who would have categorized herself that way. The other printers understand certain formats, traditions, and purposes as given - not Angela Lorenz. This young American who now lives in Bologna takes the general features of the objects we call books (portability, sequentiality, legibility, etc.) and puts them to her own ingenious uses. Bookworks - witty, personal, and fun - are the result (see photograph on page 39). I had not journeyed to Italy to explore the territory of book artists; in fact, I did not know if there was any such territory there. But I had heard so many complimentary things about Lorenz from dealers and librarians that I felt compelled to set foot in her world. It was quite a revelation.
In nearly two weeks of looking at contemporary books with fine printers, not one of them had alluded to "bookworks" or to any movement among Italian artists to explore the possibilities of the format offered by books. This had lulled me into thinking that such activity could not flourish there. Angela Lorenz set me straight: there is a large, very loosely organized, almost underground, group of practitioners who find in the book form the perfect meeting place for their visual, plastic, and intellectual interests. That book artists are so loosely organized, that they communicate so little with one another, is perhaps due to the fact that they are all competing for the same, limited, gallery space. Such work is marked through art galleries; private art collectors buy it; libraries in Italy certainly do not. The catalogue of a remarkable exhibition, Far libro: libri e pagine d'artista in Italia (Florence: Centro Di, 1989), lists 176 (!) bookworks, many from well-known artists like Pomodoro, Fontana, and Morandi, from the mid-1960s to the present. (Of particular value are the short biographical sketches of the over 160 artists who participated.) In fact, as the art community at large begins to take notice of this work, book artists have put together several annual fairs and expositions in recent years. The biggest of these, La Carta dell'Artista, organized by Guido Spaini, takes place at the Castello di Belgioioso near Pavia each spring and fall and is the subject of a substantial illustrated catalogue.
Lorenz herself is thriving; she has exhibited her work at Belgioioso and at many other public and private galleries. She is receiving critical attention in Italy and now here in this country. And no wonder: her projects, mostly small editions, usually on an intimate scale, are inventive, cleverly constructed, and full of vita, as more and more they express the Italian themes and attitudes that are now the stuff of her life.