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artists' books collection

papers of river muds (Nile), by Richard Long

Richard Long, Papers of River Muds. (Los Angeles, CA:  Lapis Press, 1990)

Born in 1945 in Bristol, where he grew up near (often in) the River Avon, Richard Long has become one of the foremost British land artists, known for his detailed crafting of geometric forms from organic matter. Papers of River Muds (the Clark copy is Nile) joins site specificity––a primary concern in the artist’s practice––with his knowledge of the paper-making process. Before leaving for London in 1966 to pursue studies at St. Martin’s School of Art, Long worked at a Bristol paper mill and he has said that “part of my appreciation of paper and all books comes from that experience.” 

The hand bound pages of Nile, their edges left slightly ragged, bear the red-printed names of twelve major rivers from ten countries, from the Nile and the Jordan to the Amazon and the Rhine – as well as the Avon. In turning through its rough pages, which emit a unique and earthy scent, the reader is invited to experience the book’s very making and material life. Each river produces a page in a subtly different shade of brown, with tints ranging from pink to golden to tan to grey, as well as different textures, from coarse to silky-smooth. Completed in 1990, Nile was produced at the height of Long’s experimentation with river mud, which he has used “as a vehicle for many ideas.”