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Steven McCarthy ~ Minnesota

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Artist statement: “Steven McCarthy (MFA, Stanford University) is professor emeritus of graphic design at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. His long-standing interest in theories of design authorship – as both scholar and practitioner – has led to lectures, exhibits, publications and grant-funded research on six continents. His book on the topic, The Designer As... Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating was published in 2013 by BIS, Amsterdam. McCarthy has been in over 135 juried and invitational exhibitions and his artist’s books are in these collections, among others: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, UCLA, University of California–Berkeley, University of Washington, the Banff Centre and the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry. In 2017 he received the Minnesota Book Artist Award from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Friends of the St Paul Public Library

Unbroken Record
electronic communication, forever undigitized

By Steven McCarthy
Falcon Heights, Minnesota: Steven McCarthy, 2014.
Edition of 50, 20 available for sale.

12.75 x 12"; 44 pages. Digitally printed on Mohawk Superfine text and cover using a Xerox 150. Archival matte dry ink. French fold with metal post binding on the left side. In open ended paper slip case. Signed by the author.

Steven McCarthy: "Memories fade and are forever lost without documentation. While digital means of communication have accelerated the speed and number of exchanges between people, text messages, Tweets, and email messages primarily exist as ephemeral instantiations - brief, fleeting, of the moment, but rarely archived in long-term, tangible, and stable way.

"While storing these messages electronically is possible, there are three major concerns. One, changes in device hardware and software make it challenging to access data over time (recall 3.5" floppy disks? Apple Macintosh OS 9 and earlier?). Two, the current trend for cloud computing and 'free' social networking makes data ownership, location, control and privacy unresolved issues. And three, it takes time and effort for people to filter their messages, organize them into a coherent narrative and archive them for posterity.

"What form might best survive to be discovered in one's basement or attic many years from now?

"This project, an artist's book in an edition of fifty, explores the undigitizing of electronic communication and fixing it in an analog medium. Ink on paper books, letters and cards - if kept moisture and light-free - have a life expectancy of many decades, even centuries.

Unbroken Record is a record of several conversations between myself and my family, none of whom thought that their words or pictures sent to me would be fodder for a creative project. This, I acknowledge, flirts with the ethics of privacy. Although anonymized for the book's broader readership, and edited for content prior to inclusion, it is conceivable that some will be unhappy that their thoughts were included without permission (even if sent as group messages)."

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Steven McCarthy Out of Print Title:  

By Steven McCarthy
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Steven McCarthy, 2022. Edition of 10.

4.5 x 4 1.75 x 1.75" wooden box containing 10 ten-page accordion-folded signatures. Digitally printed on Mohawk Superfine 100# text paper by Smart Set, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Signatures cut and folded by hand. Typefaces are Avenir and Clarendon. Wooden box with laser-cut title on top; hand-made from oak and basswood, finished with tung oil. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Steven McCarthy: "Titled ‘Human’, it is a graphic visualization of my DNA results from 23andMe. I've known all along about being mixed race, but it's fascinating to see percentages of peoples: Sub-Saharan African 22%, Ashkenazi Jew 12%, Scandinavian 1%, etc. The book consists of 100 pages in 10 ten-page accordion-folded signatures, folded to 3.5 x 3.5" squares … Each page is one percent of my DNA.

“The book form is internally compact, much like our DNA, but opens expansively. With propagation so do our genes unfurl into the world – genetic messengers from past to future generations.

“Collage was used as an image-making method for its ability to combine, layer and juxtapose found pictures that evoke unknown ancestors and circumstances. Signature 8 (pp. 71-80) has explanatory text about my family roots."

Signature 8: “Each square represents one percentage point (even though most results break down to tenths of a percent) – the total still equals 100% as depicted by 100 squares. Except for the personal images on pages 72-78, all people depicted are for representational purposes only and are not my actual relatives.

“I present visually as a white male. My surname is identifiable as having roots in Ireland … My mother’s maiden name is English: Baskerville, the plantation name. My 1958 birth certificate, from when the ‘one drop rule’ was in effect, states ‘Father: Caucasian’ and ‘Mother: Negroid.’ The 1870 U.S. Census listed my former slave ancestors as ‘mulatto,’ (racially mixed) a term dropped in the 20th Century as ‘colored’ or ‘Negro’ became used for anyone even part Black.”
(SOLD/Out of Print)

HUMAN book
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Project Bi Nary
By Steven McCarthy
Technical and creative assistance by Anna Carlson
[Falcon Heights, Minnesota]: Steven McCarthy, 2017.
Edition of 4 + 1 AP.

22 x 14 x 9" closed, extends to 40".; 30 pages including covers. Digitally printed in four color process. Each folded fore-edge filled with cotton batting. Bound into two strips of oak joined with three steel binding posts. Materials: cotton fabric, batting, thread, oak wood, steel bolts. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Steven McCarthy: "Project Binary addresses contemporary societal concerns about gender, race, class, religion, age, and other aspects of identity – aspects that are often polarized into 'on' or 'off' (or true or false) states.

"The book contains a series of thirteen used garments that have been altered with images of faces and labels: black/white, man/woman, rich/poor, catholic/atheist, democrat/republican, cultured/uncultured, and so on. A couple of terms are not truly binary – genius/mentally ill for example – but play on misguided popular notions.

"The faces were sourced by using the label as a keyword in a Google face image search with Creative Commons licensing permission for reproduction.

"Each garment also has slurs for the labels literally cut into its back. Models wore the garments and were photographed front and back. These photographs were printed onto large pieces of cloth, folded along the fore-edge, stuffed with batting, and bound using two slabs of oak and three steel binding posts.

"The pillowy softness and intentionally loose threads undermine ideas of polarity, of absolutes. And because each page verso has a pair of slurs, the harshness of language is heightened through contrasting haptic experiences."

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Page last update: 07.27.2023


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