Werner Pfeiffer. Out of the Sky. Red Hook, NY: Pear Whistle Press, 2006. Number 33 of 52 copies. An artist’s book by Werner Pfeiffer in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2011.
This three-dimensional book consists of a group of large woodcuts in the shape of two towers, each over five feet tall. Each tower has seven segments, which are stacked over a support structure and rest in recessed cavities of the accompanying hand-made box.
New York artist Werner Pfeiffer watched the towers burn from a rooftop in Brooklyn, and this book began with his sketches from that day. In constructing a book about 9/11, Pfeiffer could imagine it moving in only one direction: up. The dense and chaotic woodcuts on the bottom of the towers represent the bodies in free fall as they leapt to their death. As the paper towers rise, the victims’ names also rise to echo the texture of the corrugated steel of the World Trade Center, achieved here with the names alternately bolded and unbolded. The accompanying booklet speaks to Pfeiffer’s triggered memories of his childhood in World War II Germany and the need to heal and “to probe for guiding spiritual markers within ourselves.” When Pfeiffer’s towers are deconstructed, they fold back into the cavities of the box.
Out of the Sky is one of many examples of artists’ books in the collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts. Artists’ books are often considered works of art because they push the boundaries of the definition of a “book,” and they are typically published in small quantities (sometimes even one-of-a-kind) using an array of techniques, including photography, printmaking, paper-making, painting, and paper engineering. Some artists’ books contain stories or poems; many contain no words at all. Whereas an editor or a publisher usually has the last say about the choices in most book production, the book artist has total control over choices of size, shape, paper, typography, and binding.
To view a video of Pfeiffer discussing Out of the Sky, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh9ovBzCYYw
The book will be on display through September 30, 2011, in the Special Collections Library, 104 Paterno Library, Pennsylvania State University Libraries. For more information, contact Sandra Stelts, curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 814-865-1793.