Hardcover book, 140 pages full colour, 7 ¾” x 5 ¼”
Edition of 750
Barbara Balfour’s response to David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest takes the form of an artist’s book entitled The Inkiest Black. Comprised of Needs No Introduction, Long List, Qualified Colours, and White, Black, it pays particular attention to DFW’s vocabulary, his written descriptions of colours, and the various iterations of white and black in the novel, ending with Balfour’s favourite, “the inkiest black”. For those readers overwhelmed by the thought of a novel 1079 pages long, including footnotes, The Inkiest Black is a more compact tome that nonetheless points you in the direction of Infinite Jest.
"Offering a look over Barbara Balfour’s shoulder as she reads David Foster Wallace, The Inkiest Black is eye tracking data made flesh. You won’t put down the dictionary or the colour wheel!"
—Sarah Robayo Sheridan
"This little book doubles as a gorgeous document of Barbara Balfour’s artistic vision and an appropriate tribute to the genius of the late David Foster Wallace. The range of his linguistic reference is revealed in its unique, sometimes goofy glory, even as the nuance of Balfour’s ink strokes bear vivid witness to his suicide-shortened life. It is a lovely thing."
"René Magritte's famous painting The Treachery of Images depicts a carefully painted pipe accompanied by a written disavowal, Ceci n'est pas un pipe. By analogy and by contrast, The Inkiest Black is a pipe …not literally a pipe, of course, but the words in the book are literally themselves. Mirth. Boilerplate. Cognomen. Cheese-easement. Balfour's acute aesthetic understanding of books as objects here unfolds into an appreciation for language itself as a sensory engagement. Words, colours, the rhythms of turning pages, the haptics of ink on paper. Operating in direct conversation with Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, this little book is firmly situated in the social sphere, an intimate homage to collective modes of making meaning."
"At first I wanted to call The Inkiest Black an adjective modifier of the noun that is Infinite Jest (a noun that is rather more than a person or a thing, but a place that Barbara loves). But reading and re-reading The Inkiest Black, I came to think of it as a preposition—the cherished part of speech that lets us know where we are in the world, and how—that defines the relationships of everything to everything. Vade mecumish indeed. The Inkiest Black is with us and in us and of us, we only need to carry it out."
— Shannon Gerard
"Barbara Balfour’s The Inkiest Black is an artist’s book, one that mines the words and phrases of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and luxuriates in that rich ore. It is comprised of four chapters, which (in order) introduce the project; list and through typography celebrate favourite words and phrases; pair Wallace’s terms for colours with a printer-maker’s “draw-downs”—vertical bands of inks pulled down a sheet of paper to test them—and end with a Mallarmé -like dark sea, where words and phrases referring to whiteness and blackness are suspended, the page itself printed black, the words appearing by being untouched by ink. The entire work glistens with a magpie-like intelligence fascinated by the sensuous surface of language, and teeters its way towards synaesthesia. It seems in this way to be an allegory in which one art comes to stand for another, where the freshened possibilities of perception that could be offered by a visual art are brought forth through this engagement with the excellences of an art so different from her own. "
"The style of a novel, its texture, starts always with its lexicon. In The Inkiest Black, in the tradition of Bernard Villers’ artist’s books, Barbara Balfour tackles David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, distilling the basic building blocks of the novel into a tripartite book, highlighting Wallace’s eccentric vocabulary, his usage of colour-as-setting, and his palette of black and whites. As with many serious artist books which take pre-existing literature as source, this book contributes to an analysis of the specific source, and of the literary project as a whole."
— Michael Maranda
"Barbara Balfour's The Inkiest Black opens up Infinite Jest into startling new text and print constellations, presenting us with a haunting meditation on Wallace's oeuvre and the materiality of text today."
— Marcus Boon
"The real fun of The Inkiest Black is the artist's savoring of the sensual experience of language, and of the persistence of meaning beyond syntax or context."
— Christina Ritchie
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