January 22, 2014 - CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts - Codex
January 22, 2014


Jerry McMillan, Ed Ruscha with six of his books on his head, 1970. Courtesy the artist and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica.

January 23–March 29, 2014

Opening: Thursday, January 23, 6:30–8:30pm

CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
Kent and Vicki Logan Gallery
360 Kansas Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-5130

T +1 415 355 9670


Codex is an exhibition-manifesto conceived by the French artist Pierre Leguillon. It is a salon-style installation of more than 40 artworks, ranging from photographs to drawings to prints. It is inspired by the book form, but contains no books. Instead it focuses on two-dimensional works and videos that in various ways deform and fragment the book.

Codex is a rumination on the idea that even though books have effectively been “flattened” in our digital age, we persist in expecting our screen-based reading experiences to imitate traditional books: by retaining page numbers, by simulating the turning of pages, et cetera. Numerous artists throughout history have experimented with transitioning books from three-dimensional to two-dimensional and vice versa, and it continues to be a recurring motif in contemporary art. 

Works in the show include Ed Ruscha‘s lithographs Some Los Angeles Apartments (1970) and Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1970), in which Ruscha depicts titles from his own oeuvre hovering in midair. To make Shaped Cinema (2010), Jean-Baptiste Maitre took pages from a 1972 Museum of Modern Art catalogue featuring Frank Stella’s shaped canvases and reprinted them on 35-millimeter filmstrips, thus producing a flickering deconstruction of Stella’s catalogue. Some works hint at the unfulfilled function of books, such as Marcel Broodthaers‘s Atlas (1975), a lithograph sheet that shows untrimmed pages of his miniature book The Conquest of Space: Atlas for the Use of Artists and the Military, complete with vertical lines delineating the scoring of the book’s pages.

The exhibition title, Codex, is a reference to the earliest known bound books, which appeared between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Replacing the scroll, the codex made it possible to more intuitively hierarchize the content of a text, and enabled more immediate access to a desired page. 

Featured artists: Anonymous, Dove Allouche, Matthew Bakkom, John Baldessari, Laetitia Benat, Lisa Bonard, Alexandrine Boyer, Marcel Broodthaers, Heman Chong, Claude Closky, Robert Crumb, Moyra Davey, Marina Faust, Philip Guston, Aaron Krach, Vincent Labaume, Louise Lawler, Pierre Leguillon, Jean-Baptiste Maitre, Barry McGee, Jerry McMillan, Aurélien Mole, Jean-Luc Moulène, Damián Navarro, Dennis Oppenheim, Raymond Pettibon, Veronique Portal, Conny Purtill, Dider Rittener, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, David Scher, Yann Sérandour, Rafael Serrano, Esther Shalev-Gerz, Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth, Saul Steinberg, Jean-Luc Verna, and William Wegman

The Wattis Institute will present a series of public lectures and exchanges in connection with the exhibition, all conceived around the material, social, and performative aspects of books—manipulating and interpreting them through words and gestures. Visit wattis.org for a schedule.

Codex was first organized in 2011 by teachers and students from the Fine Arts Department of Haute Ecole D’art et de Design (HEAD), Geneva, Switzerland, in their exhibition space, Live in Your Head. This reimagined exhibition at the Wattis Institute will include works from that first show along with new works selected by Leguillon in collaboration with students from HEAD and California College of the Arts. The exhibition is generously supported by swissnex San Francisco.

About the CCA Wattis Institute
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts was established in 1998 in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. It serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary art. Through groundbreaking exhibitions, the Capp Street Project residency program, lectures, symposia, and publications, the Wattis Institute has become one of the leading art institutions in the United States and an active site for contemporary culture in the Bay Area. For more information about the Wattis Institute, visit wattis.org.

About Haute Ecole D’art et de Design
Located in the heart of Geneva, Haute école d’art et de design (HEAD) is one of the most important training institutions for art and design in Switzerland. It offers a wide range of high-level bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in visual arts, cinema, interior design, graphic design, fashion and accessory design, and media design.

Mailing address:
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
California College of the Arts
1111 Eighth Street
San Francisco, CA 94107-2247


CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art presents Codex
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
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