Smithsonian Reveals Artists Little Black Books

It’s one of society’s most scintillating secrets… Who’s in his — or her — Little Black Book??blackbook

These days we may have stacks of business cards stacked on our desks, maybe we input them into Google or store them in our phones, but once upon a time, traditional address books stored important contacts and sometimes confidential information.  Like diaries, these pocket-sized pages reveal so much about their owners.

This summer, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art is finding out firsthand, showcasing (for the first time!) a selection of the personal address books of influential American artists.  On view at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery today through Nov. 1, find out about the interpersonal connections of the likes of Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner, Joseph Cornell and Ad Reinhardt in “Little Black Books: Address Books from the Archives of American Art.”

Highlights include:

  • Printmaker Kathleen Blackshear’s elaborate system for tracking the dissemination of her annual holiday card and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn’s address book that doubled as a sketchbook
  • Joseph Cornell’s address book, which comprises a wide network of avant-garde pen pals even though he rarely ventured beyond New York City
  • Oral-history recordings that give voice to Ad Reinhardt and the art-world personalities listed in his book
  • Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner’s address book, which lists the many artists who were frequent visitors to the Pollock-Krasner house in East Hampton
  • Textile designer Dorothy Liebes’ contacts, which she listed into curious categories, such as ‘boys,” “extra girls,” “restaurants” and “Philadelphia”
  • Palmer Hayden’s address book, which tracks his contacts in Paris and often doubled as his notebook.

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