Buzz Spector exhibit showcases the foundational importance of reading…and the EPL’s books

February 3, 2022

Books forming a new exhibitThe conceptual artist cites time with EPL in his youth as a strong contribution to a career steeped in literature and the arts.


Reading builds us up—nobody understands that better than Buzz Spector. Spector is a prominent figure in the world of modern conceptual art with a body of work spanning several decades and mediums, including drawings, prints, art criticism and (perhaps most notably) visual art and sculpture. But nearly every piece has one thing in common: they’re made from printed material. 

These works range in scale and style: structures built brick by brick from novels and encyclopedias, individual books strategically torn to reveal composite images along the edges of pages, collages using cut-outs of dust jackets. Spector has dreamed up endless possibilities for the humble page. That work is continuing this winter with a brand new exhibition. made possible with the contribution of a few thousand books from right here at EPL.

Buzz Spector: Reading Matter,” opens to the public on Friday, February 4 at 7 p.m. This free exhibition at the Rockford Art Museum includes Spector’s polaroid photographs, prints and drawings. Its centerpiece is one of Spector’s trademarks: a huge book sculpture made possible with the contribution of nearly 4 tons of (no longer serviceable) books selected from EPL’s collection. 

Spector’s work tells a story of how important reading is in growing character, wisdom, and perspective over a lifetime.  Spector says that part of the significance of his imposing book structures is to suggest that a life of literary appreciation is a life of ascension and building up. Literature has an elevating effect.

“One of the things that reading does is it expands your world,” Spector said. “You go to different places, you inhabit different psyches.”

Buzz Spector portrait
Buzz Spector’s career in conceptual art is particularly interested in books and printed material.

With a personal library of his own totaling nearly 13,000 books, calling Spector an avid reader may be an understatement. It’s a passion that’s lasted his entire life, and got a jump start right here at the EPL. 

Growing up, Spector said his home was a wonderful environment for a budding reader and writer. His mother would use scrap paper from the mail to sew together notebooks for him to fill up with whatever he liked. He’d pull out his crayons and go to town, he said.

His mother also had a unique babysitting arrangement with the EPL’s librarians when she was raising him in the area decades ago. She would drop him off with the librarians on the weekends and let him peruse the stacks as he pleased while she ran errands. Spector said he worked through most of the children’s literature section all on his own, and he’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I will for the rest of my life be a great and enthusiastic fan of EPL,” he said.

Writing has power as an art form, Spector said, and he believes that poetic, enriched language is vital in the world of conceptual art—and in society at large, too. Print literature in particular will always have a special place in his heart. 

Spector believes that libraries are crucial resources for communities. Regardless of how far digital media advances, people will always treasure books no matter what, he said. He certainly has.

“We’re all read to when we’re little, and we love books,” Spector said. “In my case, I was faithful to my first love. I’ve always loved reading.”


If you go…

Buzz Spector: Reading Matter
Feb 4–May 29, 2022
Thur / Fri / Sat / Sun 10am-5pm
711 N Main Street, Rockford, Illinois 61103
(815) 968-2787

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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