Isms and Non-Isms: Recent Acquisitions in Watson Library presents a selection of titles acquired by Watson between 2021 and 2023, purchased with financial support from Friends of the Thomas J. Watson Library. The works exhibited span the 1920s through 1980s and reflect a range of languages, countries of origin, movements, groups, and styles including Constructivism, Concrete art, Neo-Dada, Lettrism, Situationism, Actionism, and Fluxus.
This exhibition features iconic publications of international 20th century avant-garde book design and contemporary art, as well as less-widely known trends and movements. Previously absent or underrepresented not only within Watson but in U.S. art institutions overall, these latter publications have been newly acquired by Watson to encourage new scholarship, development, and dissemination of more expansive art histories.
Despite the diverse circumstances, places, and time periods in which they were published, the works exhibited here share several distinguishing attributes: a playful, innovative subversion of established conventions, materials, and processes for book design and production; dynamic uses of handwriting, letterforms, and typography as visually expressive elements in themselves; and aspirations among their creators to exploit the power of print to awaken, disrupt, inform, inspire, improve, and enrich everyday life for their local communities and the world at large.
The books on display will be available for consultation in our Reading Room at the conclusion of the exhibition. Information on using the library is here.