Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake
Photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin
21st Editions, 2004, Signed Limited Edition
Hors Commerce Edition (Limited to 200)
History: In 2003, fine press photography book publisher 21st Editions released Songs of Innocence and later that year released Songs of Experience. Limited to 60 copies worldwide, each of the hand-bound collection contained 11 original platinum prints (10 bound and one free-standing platinum print - Songs of Experience includes "Harvest" and Songs of Innocence includes "Still Life, Mexico that is suitable for framing). Each print was initialed by Joel-Peter Witkin with the free standing photographs signed in full on the rectro. The edition sold out shortly after release. In 2004, they released a signed limited edition trade edition with 85 deluxe copies with a platinum print, 10 artists copies, 915 numbered copies and 200 hors commerce copies that were reserved for the artist and publisher. This copy is one of the hors commerce copies that was presented to Lance Speer, 21ST Editions Contributing Editor and Director of Marketing, upon completion of the project. The hors commerce copies do not contain a separate platinum print.
Details of the Book: John Wood wrote an exceptional introduction that states in part: "No visual artist since Blake himself is better suited to illustrate the Songs of Experience than Joel-Peter Witkin, for Witkin is the most profoundly religious photographer in the history of the medium and probably the most god-haunted American artist of the twentieth century. His imagery, like Blake's, is a direct outgrowth of his spirituality. Witkin understands that art and religion are made of the same things: sex, death, and God. In Blake's own time few people could perceive the prophetic nature and spirituality of his work. Two centuries later we see him far more clearly, but in his day his visionary claims coupled with an art like no one had ever before seen or read made him an outsider. When artists see beyond what others insist on calling the 'real' world, when they shape new realities, such as Cézanne and Picasso did, or shape new mythologies from the very flesh of the ones we know, and then insist that the deity they reveal is historical, orthodox, and authentic, those artists begin to disturb us deeply. They undermine our security. They demand we look again at what we thought we had seen, that we look through their eyes, and that we look more deeply than we ever before had looked." From the artist (Songs of Innocence): "If our first book was glorious, this one will be mystical. There is a Buddhist saying -- To everyman is given the key to the Gates of Heaven -- but the same key also opens the Gates of Hell. That is the difference between innocence and experience. It is what compels our desire to live. It is why, for those who can see it, Blake is God's jester. Blake was so wise that he could see 'nature as the work of the Devil.' He stated that 'The Devil is in us as far as we are in nature.' It is only when we are disengaged from mortality -- at death -- that evil leaves us. Then, after Judgment, either our chains are broken or we are 'his' Evermore. Logic, the rational - these are options, the Soap Operas of Divine Belief. Philosophy is a soiled diaper... Darwin playing in guano somewhere in a Bosch landscape. The subjects of my work are not freaks, degenerates, or the grotesque. They are ourselves. In this violent and visually wallpapered age, I have chosen to evoke the darkness rather than the light: as Goya, Blake and Redon have. Because we argue for Divine Madness as an honorable choice in a society devoid of human honor. The themes of my work are the things which constitute human existence, history, beauty. The work has at its very core the evidence of conscience presented as photographic metaphor. I strive to create experiences no one has seen or felt before."
Measuring 13.25” x 12.25”, the book is bound in red cloth boards with a photographic inlay and features 62 images of Witkin's most recent work, including some fresh color pieces and 40 previously unpublished images. The work was printed in a new 10 color, ultra high resolution process on lush 100% cotton Arches paper. The book is housed in a white clamshell case.
The book is boldly signed by Joel Peter-Witkin across two pages. The limitation page contains the notation that this is one of the 200 hors commerce copies.
Condition Report: The book is in FINE condition. The clamshell case is in Near FINE+ condition with a bump to one of the corners (Please see photo below).
Photographs of book and clamshell case, the signature treatment, and examples of photographs contained in the books appear in the photo section of the listing.