Cut of Cutts

By Ben Estes

When Printed Matter asked me to create a “table” for their website, I knew right away that I’d really like to put together a collection of books by Simon Cutts. Mr. Cutts, born in West Sussex (UK) in 1944, is an artist, a writer, an editor, and has been heading up Coracle Press since 1975, publishing thousands of items including books, postcards, art editions and other ephemera.

In the early 1960’s Cutts began printing up small books of his own concrete poetry, placing great importance on visual effects and how groups of words might be placed or arranged upon a single page. Lately, he’s expanding this vision to include the entire book-form itself as the metaphorical object of his poems.

Cutts’ books are beautiful and maddening. Holding any one of these titles in your hands and flipping through its pages, you wonder how something so incredibly simple could be so utterly confounding. How, with a just a few slight moves, Cutts can shift his personal abstract glimpses and relate them into a physical form. Trying here to think of ways to describe his books to those who have not yet experienced them, I can only liken them to things like small garden animals, smells, landscapes, or pieces of fruit. Or perhaps that the thoughts recorded in these books have not actually come from his head, but instead from his knees, or his elbows.

“The mythology of artist-run spaces is now part of the general sentimentality of our time for another. As alternative has become establishment, as underground has become fringe, this has often been the result of a lack of historical understanding in favor of mere media citation. With the arrival of the curator-property speculator we have entered a new phase, and when there is little consideration of immediate history, art activity is relegated to the blandness of football. A commodification of art as business and success, no amount of faddish conceptualism can justify. On the one hand we have never been so surrounded by career anarchists, predicated on the radical-chic of Modernism, the poet-maudit.” — Simon Cutts

I can’t let this specific opportunity pass and fail to mention that Simon Cutts is a huge champion of and for artist-run bookshops/gallery spaces, and their importance to the culture of art making. How places like Printed Matter give artists the agency to share their own documents of intent.

Cutts opened the Coracle Press Gallery, in London in 1976. The exhibition announcements, the installations, catalogs, posters, all were conceived as part of the art it presented, exhibiting Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Wilson and Hamish Fulton, among many other British conceptualists. In 1986 Simon Cutts began working as the director of the Victoria Miro Gallery’s Florence location, and in 1993 he opened and was the co-director of the London bookshop/gallery “workfortheeyetodo.” Since its closure in 1997, Cutts and his partner Erica von Horn have run Coracle Press from South Tipperary Ireland.

Let’s please never forget how poignant Mr. Cutts’ books are, as symbols for those kinds of small moves that in fact carry great and powerful weight, as markings of a possible utopic idea that the world still has room for such things, and that there are still people like Mr. Cutts out there making things in it.

For a full listing of Coracle Press titles available for purchase, click here.

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Spread from Nearing Arcueil by Simon Cutts and Erica Van Horn
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Sourcebook by Simon Cutts