Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond


Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library

Bright colored panels featuring man emerging from a store, credit Brandon Johnson

Princeton University Library (PUL) is delighted to present “Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond,” the spring exhibition in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library. Curated by Sal Hamerman, Metadata Librarian for Special Collections at PUL, and Javier Rivero Ramos, a recent Ph.D graduate from the Department of Art & Archaeology, who is now Assistant Curator at Art Bridges Foundation in Arkansas, the exhibition opens on February 21, 2024 and runs through June 13, 2024.

Ulises Carrión Bogard was one of the most influential of all modern artists engaged in the book, and this new exhibition will be the largest United States retrospective exhibition of his work to date. It will explore Carrión’s pioneering reinvention of the book as a material and social platform, primarily featuring Princeton’s extensive holdings, drawn from the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology and PUL’s Special Collections. PUL is steward to one of the most substantial collections of Carrión’s book and mail art in any American library. 

The exhibition will also incorporate key audio-visual, performative, and printed works on loan from the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (New York), and LIMA (Amsterdam).

Another feature of the exhibition will be a hands-on activity area where visitors can participate in creating and sending their own mail art using postcards and stamps inspired by Carrión’s work. The stamps were made at the PUL Makerspace, which will also host a stamp-making workshop this spring.

An accompanying exhibition catalog, published by and available through Princeton University Press, was made possible by the Friends of Princeton University Library. Other programming related to the exhibition will include a panel discussion to launch the accompanying exhibition catalog on March 6, and an artists’ talk with Alex Turgeon on April 8. Staff from the Center for Book Arts in New York will also lead selected public tours.

Born in San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico, in 1941, Carrión emigrated to Amsterdam in 1972 and joined a dynamic multinational community of artists pushing the boundaries of artistic practices. He eschewed conventional galleries and museums in favor of collaborative “artist-run spaces” such as his own bookstore-gallery Other Books and So. Carrión also became heavily involved in mail art, a participatory and network-driven practice rooted in the exchange of artworks through the postal system and premised on questions of authorship and originality, that was also an important avenue of communication for artists living in countries governed by authoritarian regimes. Carrión's community-driven practice fostered extensive cross-cultural exchange between experimental artists working in Latin America and Europe.   

“Carrión raised profound questions about the institutions and social conventions that shape our interactions with books, which he put into practice by stewarding artist-run organizations that reimagined how works are created, collected, and exhibited. It is hugely appropriate that this exhibition takes place in a library,” said Rivero Ramos.

In an essay titled “The New Art of Making Books,” Carrión reconceived the book not as a mere physical support for literary expression but as a material, semiotic, and social medium in its own right. His multimedia practice—which encompassed artists’ books, sound poetry, performance, videos, mail art, theoretical writing, publishing, curating, and archiving—is emblematic of the ways that Carrión and his colleagues embraced and radically reconsidered the book within the broader interrogation of language, time, and media that characterized the artistic zeitgeist of the time. 
Hamerman added, “The links between culture, knowledge organization, and power that Carrión explored in the 1970s and 1980s remain relevant today. Working in the extraordinary cultural ferment of the alternative art scene of the 1970s, Carrión reimagined a place and a practice not only for artists, but for everyone who has ever flipped through a book. Throughout his work, Carrión challenges us to envision the limitless possibilities that lie in and beyond the book.”

The exhibition will be open and free to the public during Milberg Gallery hours of operation, February 21 through June 13, 2024.

Explore the accompanying digital exhibition on Digital PUL.

Media contact: Stephanie Oster, Library Publicity Manager