New Joe D’Ambrosio Exhibit in the Library Annex at 900 N. Street, Sacramento: The Book as an Art Form
(Text courtesy of exhibit curator Gary Kurutz, Special Collections)
On display in the rotunda of the State Library Annex is an exhibit devoted to the noted book artist Joe D’Ambrosio. A man of many talents and gifted with a remarkable ingenuity when it comes to creating books, D’Ambrosio’s largest and most noteworthy project was not a book but the design of the rotunda floor in the library’s annex.
The exhibition also features many of the whimsical and eye-popping books designed, printed, and bound by D’Ambrosio. He used a variety of materials in his books ranging from feathers to dyed crumbled paper. Trained as an engineer in Chicago, the artist used these skills for producing highly imaginative but complex structures for his books. Other than using an antique printing press, all of his books under the imprint of “D’Ambrosio” were handmade.
Over the years, this gentle, smiling artist consistently donated examples of his work to the Library including preliminary drawings, trial proofs, and samples of the materials that he employed in making his books. For example, his charming A Nest of Robins (1999) features a series of four boxes nesting in progressively smaller boxes. When the last clamshell box is opened, the delighted reader then beholds a tiny leather-bound book with a glass beaded circle mounted on its cover. The book itself measure a minuscule 1 inch by ¾ of an inch. Also found in the display are three different trial states in which D’Ambrosio experimented with various designs and materials before he settled on the final production. The spine of the first box ingeniously features a tiny sculpture of a robin nesting in a tree!
Library preservationist Daniel Flanagan assisted with the display. The brilliant commemorative poster (shown at top) was designed by Flanagan, Vincent Beiderbecke, and Matt Bartok. Read more about the exhibit in the upcoming issue of the California State Library Foundation Bulletin (#113, due out later this month).