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Joel-Peter Witkin: Songs of Innocence & Experience, 22 Signed Platinum Prints



Songs of Experience & Songs of Innocence by William Blake

Photography by Joel-Peter Witkin

21st Editions, 2003, 2 Volumes, Signed Limited Editions, 3 of 60

20 Signed Original Hand Printed Platinum Prints

Two Signed Free-standing Platinum Prints

MINT Condition

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 contains 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 is initialed by Joel-Peter Witkin with the free standing photographs signed in full on the rectro. Each edition is numbered and signed by the artist, the editor and the publisher.These copies, 3 of 60, were presented to Lance Speer, 21ST Editions Contributing Editor and Director of Marketing, upon completion of the project. The edition sold out shortly after release.

Details of the Books and Prints: 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 some where 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."

The books are hand-bound and printed in letterpress on handmade cotton rag paper and housed in a custom clamshell box. Each book measures 18” x 14”. The free-standing platinum prints are housed in a folded, letterpress printed presentation folder. The books are signed and numbered by Joel-Peter Witkin, John Wood, and the publisher, Steven Albahari, on the limitation page. A Letter of Provenance from Lance Speer is included. The following are the titles of the platinum prints:

Songs of Innocence

1.   Von Gloeden in Asien

2.   Satiro

3.  The Kiss

4.   Blackman

5.   Counting Lessons in Purgatory

6.   Portrait of Nan

7.   Man with Dog

8.   Nude with Mask

9.   Bird of Queveda

10. Woman Once a Bird

11. Still Life, Mexico – signed, free-standing platinum print

Songs of Experience

1.   Cupid and Centaur in the Museum of Love

2.   La Bête

3.   Man without a Head

4.   Amour

5.   Androgyny Breast Feeding a Fetus

6.   Testicle Stretch with the Possibility of a Crushed Face

7.   Portrait as a Vanité

8.   The Invention of Milk

9.   Prudence

10. A Day in the Country

11. Harvest – signed, free-standing platinum print

Condition Report: The books, prints, and cases are all in MINT condition.

Photographs of books, the free standing platinum prints, and examples of platinum prints contained in the books appear in the photo section of the listing.