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Artists’ Books by Philip Zimmermann

Narrative Artists’ Books and the Human Condition: The Work of Philip Zimmermann (From Vol. 44, no. 1&2)

Levi Sherman

Most artists attempt to balance the personal and societal, but the artist’s books of Philip Zimmermann, who spoke at Visual Studies Workshop’s 2016 Photo-Bookworks Symposium, achieve this balance with uncommon ease. For Zimmermann, considering the personal and social is not just a communication strategy—it is an end in itself. Zimmermann makes work about the relationship between self and society. Through personal experiences, historical incidents, and contemporary issues, he examines how knowledge and belief shape the way humans share the world with one another.

Zimmermann uses the narrative artist’s book especially effectively to expound the long history of the self and society. Five recent works—Celsius 233 (2015), Cruising Altitude (2011), Incident in Deseret (2014), Paradise Lost: An Allegory (2013), and Reaper (2015)—all integrate photographic images with a running text. Celsius 233 and Paradise Lost: An Allegory also include drawn imagery, each to different effect. Zimmermann often combines original (personal) content with appropriated (more universal) text and image, augmenting or reconfiguring the borrowed media to construct new meaning. He manipulates the imagery to create a cohesive visual vocabulary from disparate sources. Drawing on expertise in photomechanical color separations, his signature exaggerated halftone dots, color screens, and other devices clue the reader in to a media-critical mindset. One must consider how the aesthetics of commerce and warfare, propaganda and exoticism, and objectivity and sentimentality ultimately contribute to the repeated shortcomings of humanity that Zimmermann addresses…

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Cruising Altitude (2011) by Philip Zimmermann

Reaper (2015) by Philip Zimmermann

Celsius 233 (2014) by Philip Zimmermann

Incident at Deseret (2014) by Philip Zimmermann

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Current Issue, Vol. 45, no. 1

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