When I Was Two [Book 68]. Keith A. SMITH.

When I Was Two [Book 68].

Black & white illus. throughout, offset-printed. [25] leaves. Oblong 4to (205 x 315 mm.), orig. three-color silk-screened dust-jacket (minor wear to the extremities), stiff boards, saddle-stitched & case-bound. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1977.

First edition. This is an excellent demonstration of Keith A. Smith’s virtuosity with the manipulation of photographic processes to create intricate and vivid imagery. One of Smith’s frequent motifs, a “tumbling block” quilt pattern, appears several times in this work. In the 60s and 70s, the artist experimented with adding images to quilts by photo silk-screen, etching printed directly onto cloth, and even gum bichromate. The present book was printed at the Visual Studies Workshop Press; this is the regular edition of 300 copies. A special edition of 50 copies from the same year comes with a tipped-in photoetching as the frontispiece.

In 200 Books, Smith (b. 1938) writes: “In Book 68 the technique was darkroom manipulation. I have always loved test strips. Since the first one I made under the guidance of Ken Josephson in his photography class, test strips have been as exciting as the finished print. They seem to be magic…

“Rubylith pin-registered stencils were made. This approach to multiple printing on a sheet is familiar to printmakers, if not photographers. By controlling the exposure to local areas of one negative, I could print the picture on one sheet of photo paper with several different exposures. Some would be under- or over-exposed. One would be the ‘normal’ exposure. The varying exposures would bring out shapes of the quilt which are in the exposure but not in the photograph. The resulting print elevates the characteristics of the test strip from disposable guide to an exhibited print…

“Book 68 contains a running text. Since I was exhibiting framed photographs with handwriting on the bottom of prints, I used this solution for text with pictures in this book. It is not as successful. Anecdotal scribbling adds contrast to a formal silver print. In a published book, text and picture on a paper page are both ink. There is less a play of opposing elements. The photo reproduction looks complete whereas the hand-printed text seems a poor substitute for typography.

When I Was Two utilizes pictures and text about events I remember from when I was two years old until an adult. It was my first public written expression of personal events. Most of the previous books were visual statements on similar experiences. As I stated when writing about Book 22, it is easier for me to reveal things through pictures than to speak or write them…”

In near fine condition, signed by the artist on the title-page; the slightest bit of wear to the dust-jacket. A second edition of this book, with semi-stiff paper wrappers, was published in 1980, in an edition of 300 copies.

❧ Smith, 200 Books (2000), pp. 113-17.

Price: $1,250.00

Item ID: 7611