Theorem began in the summer of 2017, when Chicago-based visual artist Antonia Contro (www.antoniacontro.com) and Elizabeth Bradfield decided to collaborate. Following each other, responding to each other's creations, over the course of two years Bradfield and Contro created a visual, tactile, and lyric experience in book form.
In Theorem, spare images, distilled text, and the resonant space between investigate the legacy of secrets acquired in childhood and held through a life.
The Candor edition is a very limited edition of 30. Hand-bound, letterpressed, held in a unique wrap, with original hand working of each book, Theorem represents a subtle yet dynamic conversation between text and image. Because both image and text have their own stories to tell, the two are not often on facing pages. Rather, the reader must turn a page to move from each to each, then turn back to consider the resonance of what came before, what follows. The book is large—12.5" x 12.5"—and each of its five sections reduces slightly in size. The effect is a tactile and emotional winnowing.
Candor publications are regularly collected by libraries at Tufts, Yale, and Harvard as well as by several private collectors.
Learn more about Antonia's collaborative artistic ethos in this interview in City as Lab, part of a larger celebration of Bahaus in Chicago, 2019.
Theorem is more than a beautiful book—it is also the opportunity to experience a profound and generous collaboration between an artist and a writer. Images and words reference each other in nuanced ways, creating pathways of discovery that work both backwards and forward across the span of pages. The pages themselves decrease in size as the reader moves on, evoking the sense that the book is naturally evolving in response to its contemplation. In Theorem, superb production values promote a rich and satisfying materiality, even while every decision clearly involved the practice of distillation to essence.
—Martha Tedeschi, director, Harvard Art Museums
Books about self-discovery often culminate in a revelation, which readers may find temporarily satisfying. But what happens after that? In Theorem—which is a wonderful collaboration between Elizabeth Bradfield and Antonia Contro—Bradfield’s words and Contro’s images—open up another possibility. The revelation is not in arriving at a destination but in beginning to map the journey, as well as in recognizing that one’s perspective of past events changes as time goes by. Theorem is not a book where text and image face each other, but where one follows the other, inviting the reader to go back and forth. This going back and forth, this rumination, suggests revelation is to begin rather than to arrive, to search rather than to answer. This is the enigma of being alive and alert. This is what Theorem offers the willing reader—a place to return to in order to set out again and see that the book has changed.
—John Yau, poet, critic, and curator
As soon as they committed to collaborating, the perfect pairing of Bradfield and Contro’s aesthetic sensibilities—rigorous, spare, redolent—began to materialize on paper. Consummate artists with unquestionable command of their separate vocabularies, their barrier-free interplay of words and images provokes associations, connected yet never literal, accessible but fluid. “I’m still trying to map it,” Bradfield writes at some point. Me too. Just as it should be.
—Philip Yenawine, former Director of Education, Museum of Modern Art, and co-founder of Visual Thinking Strategies
Selected pages from "Theorem," modified for web preview.