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Ikkyu (haiku, 12th century)


Hockensmith employs black-out poetry and ghostly afterimages in reference to the ephemerality of books and art objects in our digital age. On the first side, Hockensmith pairs text with faded photographs of portraits and found objects from a collector’s portfolio; occupying the second side are the artist’s own photographic images depicting nature and death. Seen through sheets of translucent paper, these “after” images reference the phenomenon of seeing the inverted version of an image after exposure to the original has ceased. Poems by the 15th-century Japanese Zen monk Ikkyu are blacked-out with gold and black ink over letterpress-printed text, allowing one to read both the original and revised versions of poems by two creators separated by several hundred years of existence.

"After is about the life of the book in the digital age and the transitory nature of all things. It’s structured in two sections using a dos-a-dos binding. The first section features photos of ghostly afterimages left behind on the glassine sheets protecting plates in a 1929 art history catalog. The real world intrudes at the end of the first section when a thumb appears in the image. As the reader flips to the second side of the dos-a-dos, the imagery pivots to include afterimages of different kinds from the outside world.

"The text in the book is a blackout poem I created using a sequence of poems by 15th-century Japanese Zen monk Ikkyu as the source text. The original sequence – titled Skeletons – is an extended exploration of the same transitory theme as After. I letterpress printed the Ikkyu poems in their entirety from polymer plates before creating the new, book-length blackout poem by brushing over certain words with a combination of sumi ink and gold calligraphy ink.

"The English version of Skeletons is a translation by the great John Stevens, from Wild ways: Zen poems (Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press, 2003), used with the generous permission of the publisher. The book that I photographed the afterimages of artworks from is A catalogue of paintings in the collection of Jules S. Bache (New York: privately printed, 1929).

"I composed the blackout poem as an 'intentional' poem, but I use chance methods to determine which color ink to use when brushing words out: black or gold. For that, I use a printed sheet of randomized numbers between 1-4 that was created by John Cage and my mentor Stephen Addiss for a project they did together in the 1990’s. The numbers determine how many words I black out in one color before switching to the other. Each copy of the book has a different pattern of blackout coloration." — Josh Hockensmith


Blue Bluer Books


art, photography, death, nature, portraits, portraiture, haiku, poetry, black-out poetry, visual poetry


10.25 x 8.25"


Dos-a-dos structure.


Paper, book board, book cloth, thread, ink. Letterpress and inkjet printed on Stonehenge, Red River, and Hiromi papers.


Letterpress and inkjet.



Other Information

Edition 12 of 25. Signed by the artist. For more information, visit Also featured in the Artist's Books Unshelved series by Bainbridge Island Museum of Art: