The unique beauty and history of libros cartoneros and artists’ books

A new pop-up exhibit showcasing libros cartoneros and artists’ books created by Latinx artists is on display in the Rivera Library.

The exhibit, titled Hecho a Mano, features a collection of unique and creative books made from recycled materials such as cardboard, paper, and found objects.

Libros cartoneros, which originated in Argentina during a time of economic crisis, are a form of grassroots publishing in which books are made from recycled cardboard and sold at a low cost.

“When you look at them, they're very DIY,” said Special Collections Public Services, Outreach and Community Engagement Librarian Sandy Enriquez who curated the exhibit. “Libros cartoneros helped make literature and art more accessible and affordable for people during a very difficult time, demonstrating the importance of the creative arts even during a crisis. I think that's a powerful statement.”

In addition to libros cartoneros, the exhibit also features artists’ books created by the artist collective Ediciones Vigía from Cuba. These books, which are often one-of-a-kind or limited-edition pieces, incorporate a wide range of mediums, including painting and collage.

“Libros cartoneros came from this place of resilience and resistance,” explained Sandy. “While artists’ books are similar, they also elevated the art form of using common materials by incorporating more labor-intensive elements like pop-ups, cut-outs, and non-traditional bindings. It’s really cool to see two different ways that handmade books have originated in Latin America.”

While the origins of these two art forms are different, both the libros cartoneros and the artists’ books on display are about the intersections of art, literature, and social justice.

Coinciding with this pop-up exhibit, Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be restarting its 4 to Explore Program. The program hopes to make viewing items in SCUA more accessible.

“4 to Explore is great for folks that want to come and view something but don't know what they want to see or don't have time to search through our catalog. Similar to course reserves, a selection of items will be curated in advance and available for anyone to request. All you have to do is visit our front desk on the 4th floor and ask about the program; we’ll give you a list of the four items with descriptions, and you can choose which one you want to see, whether just one, two or all four.,” Sandy said.

This quarter’s 4 to Explore items are all artists’ books and libros cartoneros, complementing the pop-up exhibit.

“You'll be able to see these items, hold them, open them, take photos, and really get a chance to interact with what you're seeing in the case,” said Sandy.

You can view Hecho a Mano and check out 4 to Explore items on the fourth floor of the Rivera Library in Special Collections and University Archives 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, this winter quarter. 

Event: Hecho a Mano
Location: Tomás Rivera Library, 4th floor, Special Collections & University Archives
Dates: Jan. 27, 2023 - Mar. 24, 2023
Hours:  View from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Monday through Friday)