On June 1, Lexington’s Institute 193 will release a new book highlighting the work of some 18 artists that the North Limestone gallery has played host to since its 2009 inception.
The book, Institute 193: Volume One, is set to be a reflection of both the gallery itself and the artists whose work has hung on or, just as often, echoed off the small shop’s walls. Most Lexington art lovers who pick up the book will already be familiar with some of the names like Latitude founder Bruce Burris (now living in Oregon) or photographer Guy Mendes.
In the opening to the book, Institute 193 owner Phillip March Jones writes that the gallery “has organized twenty-eight exhibitions that have traveled to Atlanta, Paris, New York, Dallas, Louisville, and a few other dots on the map.”
That’s no small feat. Jones himself admitted that the shop’s success was by no means predetermined, saying “It has always been touch and go.”
“Looking through the finished project gives me a sense of bewildered accomplishment,” Jones continued. “The space has essentially survived through sheer force of will and lots of help from artists, musicians, writers, and friends. The book also serves as a guide for future programming by condensing our past exhibitions into 160 pages. Viewing our program in this format allows us to see trends, styles, themes, but also gaps in our work. It is something we can learn from.”
When asked if any particular artist or installation from the gallery—and now book—stood out in his mind as particularly significant Institute 193’s success, Jones stressed that “Institute 193’s strength lies in the quality and diversity of its program, and no single artist stands out. Our success is fully dependent on the width and breadth of talent in our region which has always been our raison d’être.”
Understandably, Jones did say that the gallery’s first exhibit, featuring local artist Louis Bickett’s Archive, was particularly special. “It demonstrated our commitment to sharing the complete vision of an artist. We custom built replicas of his studio bookshelves, moved hundreds of objects large and small, and re-installed the works to resemble his home and studio, which at time time was directly above the gallery,” Jones said.
Physical publications have always played a central role in the gallery’s collaborations with its artists. That’s largely a result of Institute 193’s stated mission of collaborating “with artists, musicians, and writers to produce exhibitions, publications, and projects that document the cultural landscape of the modern South.”
While the gallery will employ any medium that best serves that mission, Jones has a particular fondness for a book’s physicality, “Nothing compares to the experience of reading a physical book or listening to a record. Consuming digital media is a more passive process that doesn’t require the same degree of attention and focus and generally invites distraction and multi-tasking. Physical publications force you to make time for them. You can’t listen to a record while you’re driving around town and you can’t check your email in between book chapters.”
How much does he love print books? Enough that hot-on-the-heels of this June release, the gallery will be publishing yet another book in July, titled Making Pictures: Three For A Dime which will be a collaboration with the Atlanta-based publisher Dust-to-Digital. On top of that, the gallery will also begin work on the second volume in this particular series, simply titled, Volume Two.
Until then, Institute 193 will be holding a pre-release book party for Volume One at the Morris Book Shop on Saturday, May 24 from 4 – 6 pm where many of the book’s artists will be present. The book can also be pre-ordered at Institute 193’s online store.