INVENTORY OF THE BARBARA T. SMITH COFFIN SERIES AND RELATED MATERIAL, 1965-1967

Finding aid prepared by Isabella Zuralski


Descriptive Summary

Title: Barbara T. Smith Coffin series and related material
Date (inclusive): 1965-1967
Number: 2013.M.23
Creator/Collector: Smith, Barbara Turner, 1931-
Physical Description: 12.26 linear feet (15 boxes)
Repository:
The Getty Research Institute
Special Collections
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
(310) 440-7390
Abstract: The collection comprises Coffin, a unique set of twenty-five hand-bound artist's books documenting Barbara T. Smith's experiments with an early Xerox 914 copy machine, and a set of working materials and other works related to the Coffin series.
Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
Language: Collection material is in English.

Biographical / Historical Note

Barbara T. Smith, a pioneer in performance and body art, was born in Pasadena, California in 1931. She studied painting, art history and religion at Pomona College, graduating in 1953. In 1965, she began to study at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and in 1971, she received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. While attending UC Irvine, she founded, together with Nancy Buchanan and Chris Burden, the student-run experimental art gallery F-Space. It was at F-Space during the late 1960s where Smith launched her career as an artist at the forefront of feminist, body, and performance art.
In 1965, shortly before turning to performance and body art, Smith experimented with a photocopy machine. She leased a 914 Xerox copier, placed it in her home for several months and began to explore its artistic potential. Between 1965 and 1966 she produced an extensive body of prints which she used to make artists' books called Coffin, sets of prints called Poetry, and other works.
Smith used the process of photocopying as a means of formal experimentation to create both abstract and figurative imagery and to explore non-textual narrative and serialized conceptual processes. She experimented with the imaging process by putting common household items, such as food and magazine clippings, flowers, photographs of her husband and children, and even her own body in various states of undress on the photocopier. She was interested in how images can be manipulated and how technical shifts, such as toner and paper style affect texture, tone, and shadows.
Made by means of personal mental and physical engagement with a machine, the Coffin artists' books and other Xerox works anticipate Smith's performance art that developed just a few years later, including Ritual Meal in 1969, Celebration of the Holy Squash in 1971, and the iconic Feed Me in 1973.
A retrospective exhibition of Smith's work was held in 2005 at Pomona College Museum of Art, and later travelled to the Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University. In 2008, the Orange County Museum of Art included her Trunk Piece, along with video footage from past performances, in the show Art Since the 1960s: California Experiments. Also in 2008, Smith's Field Piece was shown at The Box gallery in Los Angeles. In 2013,The Box gallery exhibited works Smith created between 1965 and 1966 using the photocopy machine, including the Coffin series.

Administrative Information

Access

Open for use by qualified researchers.

Publication Rights

Preferred Citation

Barbara T. Smith Coffin series, and related material, 1965-1967, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2013.M.23.

Acquisition Information

The collection was acquired in 2013.

Processing History

Isabella Zuralski processed the collection and wrote the finding aid.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection comprises Coffin, a unique set of twenty-five hand-bound artists' books documenting Barbara T. Smith's experiments with an early Xerox 914 copy machine, seven additional artists' books called Coffin, five sets of prints called Poetry, and a sketchbook called Xerox Journal which contains working materials related to the Coffin series.
Twenty-five artists' books from the Coffin series comprise Series I. Series II includes seven additional artists' books called Coffin, five sets of prints called Poetry, and the artist's sketchbook.

Arrangement

Arranged in two series: Series I. Coffin books, 1965-1966; Series II. Related works and working material, 1965-1967.

Indexing Terms

Genres and Forms of Material

Artists books--California--Los Angeles--20th century
Sketchbooks--California--20th century


Container List

 

Series I. Coffin books, 1965-1966

Physical Description: 10.0 linear feet (12 boxes)

Scope and Content Note

The first series comprises twenty-five artists' books from the Coffin series, made by Smith between 1965 and 1966. All are hand-bound in embossed black covers. Most bindings are spiral, but a few are accordion fold.

Arrangement

The books are listed alphabetically by title.
Box 2

Coffin: An Awakening

Scope and Content Note

10.75" x 14.5" closed, 22" x 14.5" open. Inv# BS10255-23.
Box 1

Coffin: Bond

Scope and Content Note

104 pages. Spiral bound. 9.5" x 11.25" closed, 18" x 11.25" open. Inv# BS10255-12.
Box 1

Coffin: Broken Heart

Scope and Content Note

132 pages. Case binding. 8.75" x 11" closed, 17" x 11" open. Inv# BS10255-11.
Box 3

Coffin: Chaotic Attractor

Scope and Content Note

24 pages. Quarter bound. 10.25" x 14.25" closed, 21.75" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-8.
Box 4

Coffin: Coming Out Party

Scope and Content Note

56 pages. Spiral bound. 10.25" x 14.25" closed, 19.75" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-9.
Box 5

Coffin: Die Cut, Barbara Hard-Bound

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9" x 11.25" closed, 17.75" x 11.25" open. Inv# BS10255-15.
Box 5

Coffin: Die Cut, Julie Hard-Bound

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9" x 11.25" closed, 17.75" x 11.25" open. Inv# BS10255-16.
Box 5

Coffin: Die Cut, Katie Hard-Bound

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9" x 11.25" closed, 17.75" x 11.25" open. Inv# BS10255-16.
Box 5

Coffin: Die Cut, Rick Hard-Bound

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9" x 11.25" closed, 17.75" x 11.25"open. Inv# BS10255-17.
Box 3

Coffin: Do Nut Tuch!

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 10" x 14.5" closed, 18.75" x 14.5" open. Inv# BS10255-20.
Box 2

Coffin: Document Carrier and Screen

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 10" x 14.5" closed, 18.75" x 14.5" open. Inv# BS10255-18.
Box 6

Coffin: Entheos

Scope and Content Note

10" x 14.25" closed, 19" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-14.
Box 7

Coffin: Hokusai's Wave

Scope and Content Note

Accordion fold, 20 pages. 9.5" x 11.75" closed. 11.75" x 101.5" open. Inv# BS10255-2.
Box 8

Coffin: Listen!

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9.75" x 14.25" closed, 18.75" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-19.
Box 4

Coffin: Nuclear Family

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 18 pages. 9.5" x 14.25" closed. 18.75" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-1.
Box 9

Coffin: Oh! Those Leopard Skin Bikinis

Scope and Content Note

Accordion fold. 9.25" x 14.75" closed, 108.25" x 14.75" open. Inv# BS10255-13.
Box 11

Coffin: Rose Bowl

Scope and Content Note

Spiral Bound. 20 pages. 9.75" x 13.25" closed, 18.5" x 13.25" open.
Box 10

Coffin: Set Theory

Scope and Content Note

Drawings 13" x 11.5" closed, 27" x 11.5" open. Inv# BS10255-14.
Box 7

Coffin: Sign Language

Scope and Content Note

Case binding. 190 pages. 8.75" x 11.25" closed, 17.5" x 11.25" open. Inv# BS10255-10.
Box 8

Coffin: Split Initiative

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 9.75" x 14.5 " closed, 18.75" x 14.5" open. Inv# BS10255-22.
Box 11

Coffin: Time Piece, Fuschia Rose

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 16 pages. 9.5" x 14.25" closed, 18.5" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-6.
Box 11

Coffin: Time Piece, Pink Rose

Scope and Content Note

Spiral Bound. 17 pages. 9.5" x 14.25" closed, 18.5" x 14.25" open. Inv# BS10255-5.
Box 11

Coffin: Time Piece, Yellow Rose

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 20 pages. 9.75" x 13.25" closed, 18.5" x 13.25" open. Inv# BS10255-7.
Box 11

Coffin: Time Piece, Yellow Rose

Scope and Content Note

Accordion fold. 12 pages. 14.25" x 9.25" closed, 14.25" x 63" open. Inv# BS10255-3.
Box 12

Coffin: Where Did You Get That Polka-Dot Blouse?

Scope and Content Note

Accordion fold. 9.25" x 14.75" closed, 91.25" x 14.75" open. Inv# BS10255-21.
 

Series II. Related material, 1965-1967

Physical Description: 2.26 linear feet (3 boxes)

Scope and Content Note

Included are seven additional Coffin artists' books. They are finished works but do not have the embossed black covers of the twenty-five books in the main Coffin series. Also present are five sets of prints called Poetry, and Smith's sketchbook called Xerox Journal that documents both, her ideas throughout the process of producing the Coffin series as well as the source imagery for the series.

Arrangement

The material in this series in divided into three groups: other Coffin books which are not in black embossed bindings, sets of loose prints called Poetry, and the sketchbook.
 

Other Coffin books, 1965-1966

Scope and Content Note

The artists' books, which are not from the main Coffin series are Xerox prints, unbound or spiral bound in clear plastic covers, except for the artists' book Coffin: Printed Matter (Xerox Book) which is made of plexiglass plates and printed mylar string bound.
Box 12

Remnant, 813 Reduction,

Scope and Content Note

8.5" x 11". Loose leaves held by two metal rings. Inv# BS10358.
Box 13

Coffin: Printed Matter (Xerox Book)

Scope and Content Note

12 1/2" x 10" X 1 1/8". String bound loose plexiglass and printed mylar. Inv# BS8908.
Box 14, Folder 1

Coffin: In Self Defense

Scope and Content Note

12 loose leaves. 14" x 8 1/2". Inv# BS10351.
Box 14, Folder 2

Coffin: Important / First Class (Julie)

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 13 leaves. 11 1/4" x 9" x 1/4". Inv# BS8918.
Box 14, Folder 3

Coffin: American Standard (Katie)

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 13 leaves. 11 1/4" x 9 1/8" x 1/2". Inv# BS8919.
Box 14, Folder 4

Coffin: Mellon National Bank and Trust

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 16 leaves. 11 1/4" x 9" x 5/8". Inv# BS8920.
Box 14, Folder 5

Coffin: First Class Mail

Scope and Content Note

Spiral bound. 13 leaves. 14 3/8" x 9" x 1/8". Inv# BS8914.
 

Poetry sets, 1965-1966

Scope and Content Note

The Poetry sets are loose leaf Xerox prints in folders.
Box 14, Folder 6

Poetry: Rebellion

Scope and Content Note

12 loose leaves. 14" x 8 1/2", leaves; 14 1/4' x 9, folder. Inv# BS10354.
Box 14, Folder 7

Poetry: Sorrow

Scope and Content Note

13 loose leaves. 14" x 8 1/2", leaves; 14 3/8" x 9", folder. Inv# BS10355.
Box 14, Folder 8

Poetry: Child Voice

Scope and Content Note

15 loose leaves. 14" x 8 1/2", leaves; 14 3/8" x 9", folder.
Box 14, Folder 9

Poetry: Joy

Scope and Content Note

11 loose leaves. 14" x 8 1/2", leaves; 14 3/8" x 9 1/8", folder. Inv# BS10353.
Box 14, Folder 10

Poetry: The Mystery

Scope and Content Note

10 loose leaves. 14" x 8 3/8", leaves; 14 3/8" x 9 1/8", folder. Inv# BS10356.
Box 15

Xerox Journal, 1966-1967

Scope and Content Note

Bound sketchbook. 12 1/2" x 9 7/8" x 2". Inv# BS8885. Paper label on spine: Xerox '66-1967 #1. The Xerox Journal includes handwritten and typed notes, drawings, pasted in press clippings, several black and white photographs, including one of the artist, four color polaroids (faded); and numerous inserts, such as notes, printed matter, and drawings.