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Project Statement

by J. Drucker

Dark was born of dreams and drugs, of hallucinatory meanderings and quasi-mediumistic focus. The text was channelled as much as it was written, in a state of self-hypnosis, sitting at the dining room table in Philadelphia, my parents' house. Unable to believe an entire book could come into being, I conjured it. Not that I hadn't written plenty before (the pile of adolescent novels was evident in the drawers), but that work was unsuited for letterpress and art production. The term artist's book didn't quite exist in 1972, not in the context of school or studio. Dark just arrived, fully formed, as a book. Texts and images matched, but where they came from I couldn't have said. The drawings, directly done on the stone (litho), also had to be conjured. I could almost see them before they appeared, as if they were mind projections caught on the surface of the stone. Little Dark, his plump body wrapped with sinewy vines, was so real, so palpable, that I wasn't creating him, rather, catching his likeness from an already existing creature. The pupae had been an invention of that year, their corrupt infantilism a manifestation of another dark force, perverse, slightly evil, definitely wicked in their erotic implication. The project of Dark? Infantile sexuality, latent, exotic, repressed, exposing itself in gropes and glances, obliquely. I hardly knew what I wrote. Or drew. Later I came to see the peculiarity of this text.

Dark, The Bat Elf Banquets the Pupae

Johanna Drucker


Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


birth: 1952-05-30

note: This was produced while I was in art school. [J. Drucker]

Publication Information

publisher: self-published, retrospectively, Druckwerk, but not at the time

publication: 1972-11-15

publication history: A very limited edition work. [J. Drucker]

Aesthetic Profile


artists' books (LCSH)

themes: perverse sexuality, eros, fantasy [J. Drucker]

content form:
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
illustrated book (local)

inspiration: Goblin Market (Christina Rossetti), The Princess and Curdie (George MacDonald), Five Children and It (E. Nesbit), and other tales of goblins and such. [J. Drucker]

related works: "Light and the Pork Pie," and other fantasy stories of the early 1970s [J. Drucker]

other influences: drugs and fantasy illustrations, Charles Ricketts [J. Drucker]

community: school This was produced at CCAC, in the print shop, though that world provided little or no intellectual community. Betsy Davids, then my teacher, provided far more by her role model as writer, her influence as a teacher, and a printer. [J. Drucker]

note: A curious, unique little object, tactile and visually engaging. [J. Drucker]

Exhibition Information

exhibition history:

reception history: My mother was disturbed. My father laughed. I gave them each a copy at Christmas, 1972.

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: No manuscripts for this book still exist, but a number of pupa drawings from this period do exist, as does a long, complex manuscript (or more) of writings from the early 1970s.

General Comments

Why did I make books? What drove me, then, to see books as the right form for expression? I'd written for years, and had made a few unique books ("A Story for Phillip" at Rochester was the milestone for me, so important that after giving the real Phillip the initial copy, I made a second for myself). Creating a work in print had legitimacy and authority no hand-made work could muster. This was 1972. Xerox was available, but still restricted to office work. We typed on typewriters and erased our mistakes. Wite-Out and eraser-tabs on plastic were still novelties. Printing was printmaking -- litho, etching, silkscreen -- and either artisanal or industrial. The only way to get images into multiple form was to have them photographed and printed offset, or else made into zinc plates or stereotyped. High-end glossy magazine printing was web-printing and so expensive at any but the highest volumes that it was unthinkable. Real printing, making work that was typeset, bound, had the look of a real book -- this was a thrill beyond expectation. Being able to learn to do the actual work, to have the skills, and access to the equipment, that made a text into a book was an amazing experience. I watched Betsy Davids with her newly acquired Vandercook in the summer of 1971 or 1972, printing Double Rising Eyelids Blue in her garage on Chaucer Street in Berkeley. I was awestruck seeing her poems on the press, and then on the page, their clear, clean, authorial presence (collaborations with a young man whose name escapes me at the moment) was magical. My sense of books was more archaic, esoteric, naive -- I knew as little about the history of books and book arts as I knew about poetry. I had an instinct and an impulse fed on years of reading 18th and 19th century novels, feeling affinities with French symbolist, English aestheticist, and Bloomsbury poets and writers. The idea and image of the literary life, artistic life, loomed large in my mind, and with it was associated, always and still, the image of the book as the vehicle of private expression for public consumption. Dark is the quintessence of that sensibility, unutterable thoughts put into form, closed between seductive covers, to go out into the world to be discovered, entered into intimacies of reading that might, just might, bring the world back. [J. Drucker]