Ann Tyler ~ Illinois

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Ann Tyler: The capacity for benevolence and malevolence – within single individuals and within communities as a whole, traversing from one moment to the next and sometimes from one extreme to the other – defines the human, socialized mammal. My work, both artist books and prints, delves into our human violent histories as well as our present and future capacities. The current body of work derives from the history of lynching in the United States.

Billy Rabbit
An American Adaptation

By Ann Tyler
Chicago, Illinois: Ann Tyler, 2007. Edition of 50.

11 x 15.25"; 22 leaves. Set in Caslon and letterpress printed in red ink on Cranes Lettra acid-free paper. Clothbound. Images of tools hand-sewn at top to page so that it can be lifted to reveal the text. Source material documented at colophon.

One of Tyler's three books about lynching, each with a uniquely indirect approach to the subject .

Billy Rabbit is a recasting of an English children's story. In her "American adaptation," Tyler offers a tale of doomed innocence, helpless in the face of mob mentality. On some pages, the text is covered by images of old, well-used tools — saws, a hammer, knives of various sorts. The reader must lift the image and become symbolically complicit in the story.

Ann Tyler: "... constructed from public sources – images and text that exist in the public sphere. The narratives I create with these elements tell a new story while elucidating an old one. In writing the narrative for Billy Rabbit, I fused and rewrote elements from a cautionary, children’s tale and original newspaper accounts of lynchings. (Lynchings functioned on multiple levels including as cautionary tales 'written' to the black community.) The narrative is written to follow the actual narrative arc and ritualized structure of many lynchings."

The colophon documents the seven lynchings used as the basis for the text: "Because of the ritualized aspects of lynching, the same acts of torture described here were perpetrated on many lynching victims. These descriptions should, therefore, not be seen as limited to the individuals listed."

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By Ann Tyler
Chicago, Illinois: Ann Tyler, 2007. Edition of 50.

8.25 x 7.75"; 32 pages. Set in Snell Roundhand and Caslon. Letterpress printed on Cranes Lettra acid-free paper. Bound in pink cloth with black accents. Three hole stab binding with black ribbon lacing. Images tipped in with scrapbook picture corners. Bibliography included for source material.

One of Tyler's three books about lynching, each with a uniquely indirect approach to the subject.

Souvenirs appears to be a scrapbook from an earlier time. Each spread pairs a photograph of a rabbit, innocent, almost cuddly, with text that is far from innocent: "As the fire died down relic hunters started their hunt for souvenirs. Parts of the skull and body were carried away." A bibliography reveals that the words come from newspaper reports of lynchings. The juxtaposition, presented without comment, is shocking and revealing.

Ann Tyler, colophon: "My enduring appreciation of Constance White. Together we have researched the history of lynching in the United States and engaged in critical analysis of the effects of torture on language, the body, and the body politic. The art we each have created would not be what it is had we not proceeded together."



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Ann Tyler Out of Print Title:  

The Unmaking and the Making of the World
By Ann Tyler
Chicago, Illinois: Ann Tyler, 2007. Edition of 12.

16.25 x 11.75"; 44 leaves. Set in Aldus. Letterpress printed on Mohawk Superfine. Images created by riddling paper with a punch one-half inch in diameter. The images — the negative space of the riddled leaf, which Tyler calls "specimens" — are then layered with other images (riddled leaves) to form a set. Within each set a changing series of images is created when the page is turned. For example, the first set has 7 separate leaves. You first see the image created looking through all 7 leaves. Turn top page and you are looking through the remaining 6, then the remaining 5, etc. There are six sets of images in all, comprised of a varying number of individual leafs (7, 3, 5, 7, 5, and 5). Each image section separated with full blank page and tissue guard page. Quarter bound in brown cloth with marbled paper over boards. Paper title label on front cover.

One of Tyler's three books about lynching, each with a uniquely indirect approach to the subject.

In this haunting book, which contains only two snippets of text, the connection to lynching is not revealed until the next to last page: "To 'riddle' is to pierce with holes suggesting those of a sieve, to pierce a body repeatedly with bullets. Victims were often subjected to riddling during the course of a lynching."

Ann Tyler: "The Unmaking and the Making of the World has a more metaphorical relationship to lynching as well as a broader reference to human behavior in general. The specimens are abstracted life forms derived from my prints. (The prints are fabulist natural creatures constructed from a base documentary image taken at a lynching.) Made with a ½" punch, the construction of these specimens relate to the act of 'riddling' or shooting a victim so many times that the body was riddled. A dictionary definition of riddling appears in the epilogue.

"I developed the forms in the book as I wondered 'what does such a violent action do/take away from one’s soul?' As a perpetrator shoots a victim, 'how are they destroying themselves?' The forms are both perpetrator and victim, but at the same time they are neither. They represent complex aspects of life, death, destruction, and creation.

"I wrote the text at the beginning of the book as a metaphorical, pseudo-scientific introduction. Some invisible weight is created as we destroy another being. I imagine the weight increasing with each act of violence, each shot, each hole punched. These acts can be brief in the span of time but they impact the universe which is one aspect of the reference to anti-matter. Anti-matter is very heavy and invisible becoming a metaphor for the soul. I also describe these multiple aspects of human behavior and desire as shadow worlds so anti-matter invokes this idea as well.

"The specimens are situated in the terrible and yet they are so beautiful. The beauty represents a number of ideas: desire, what endures and cannot be destroyed, what is worthwhile, the best in us and the worst in us."





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Page last update: 05.19.15


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