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Redwood Library and Athenæum announces gift of author Calvin Tomkins' art library and bookplate by Ed Ruscha
Ed Ruscha, Ex Libris, 2017. Acrylic on canvas © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.

NEWPORT, RI.- The Redwood Library and Athenaeum, the nation’s first purpose-built library structure and think space, has been given the art book collection of prominent author and New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins, a gift of more than 5000 volumes. To commemorate the gift, renowned contemporary artist Ed Ruscha has created a painting titled EX LIBRIS, and a limited series of interpretive lithographs after it to be sold for the benefit of the Redwood.

The book collection, gathered over decades of Tomkins’ writing career, which includes biographies of Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg and the international bestseller Living Well is the Best Revenge, comprises a range of exhibition and gallery catalogs, critical surveys and monographs, many of them signed and personalized with drawings by the artists. The collection abuts historic Redwood collections of art and pattern books, while forming an archive of critical literature on modern and contemporary art that will be available for study by students and scholars.

Commemorating this exceptional gift is Ed Ruscha: EX LIBRIS, a special presentation of Ruscha’s large-scale painting EX LIBRIS—the master image—shown along with two proof impressions from the series of interpretive lithographs created after it. Organized by the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in collaboration with Art & Newport, a non-profit corporation founded by Dodie Kazanjian, Ed Ruscha: EX LIBRIS will be on view from July 6 to October 28, 2018. This exhibition—and the gift that led to it—together exemplify the Redwood’s engagement with contemporary art and culture, as well as its methodological commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to both the visual and literary.

“Our stock-in-trade of the public humanities demands that we present some of the most inspiring—and challenging—contemporary art in tandem with access to the documentary resources that make for an informed, historically aware viewing experience. To that point, the Tomkins collection contains significant titles on Duchamp, Dada, the Bauhaus, and Russian Constructivism—high points of early twentieth-century avant-garde graphic art that Ed Ruscha has been in dialog with for years. On behalf of the Redwood, I want to thank Calvin Tomkins and Dodie Kazanjian for making the Redwood the home for this incredible trove, and for their enduring commitment to the Redwood’s mission” said Redwood Executive Director Benedict Leca.

Further marking the gift, in collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design and with the support of the VIA Foundation, the Redwood is convening a symposium on art criticism titled “‘Since 1960’: Contemporary Art and The Stakes of Criticism ” to be held on October 25 and 26, 2018.

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