Friday, November 9, 2012

IFPDA Fair-Re-cap

By Pam Paulson

Getting to New York this year for the print fair was no easy task. As you can imagine, Super Storm Sandy created mass confusion and a logistics nightmare. After many hours spent analyzing our chances of getting there we finally rearranged our cancelled flight and boarded a plane to arrive in New York Wednesday afternoon, only a day and a half later than planned.  We caught a cab straight to the Uptown Armory, suitcases in tow, anxious to see if our crates full of artwork had been delivered.  Miraculously they had, and we were able to begin intsalling our booth immediately. Thanks to the tireless work of Michele Senecal (IFPDA), Sanford Smith Associates, and the construction crews (who began building the booths midnight Tuesday and worked 18 hours straight)  the walls for the fair were ready. Not everyone was so lucky. Some art never arrived.

A few people's shipments did not arrive in time.
Crates at the Armory

Uptown was in a kind of bubble, everything seemed almost OK, except that Central Park was closed and you couldn't get anywhere by subway. But what really stood out was the shock on everybody's face, the dazed look that us West Coasters recognize from the days following the Loma Prieta earthquake. As the magnitude of destruction unfolded, we heard stories from our collegues about the damage to homes, galleries, artwork, and worst of all, the loss of human life.  The Upper West Side had power and felt surreal in its near normalcy and we were lucky to be staying there.  Like everyone in New York who could, we offered one of our rooms to someone who was unable to commute to the fair from Brooklyn.

Renee Bott, Lothar Osterburg (who rode his bike to the fair from Brooklyn) and Judy Pfaff
The Uptown Armory (you'd never know there was a storm here).

The show opened a day late, the attendance was at half capacity (amazing considering the circumstances). Those who did make it were the diehards, supportive, and elated to be there at all.  The fair looked especially good with the glow of survival. We exhibited our latest pieces by Thornton Dial, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Gary Simmons, and Martin Puryear. For us the fair was extra special because it was a symbol of the city's endurance and ability to overcome adversity.

A few highlights from the fair:

Durham Press

Pace Prints and Paragon Press

Barbara Krakow Gallery and Andrew Hoyem of Arion Press

We send our best wishes to everyone recovering from the storm and are thankful for the bravery and camaraderie of the people on the East Coast.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Collector’s Profile: Martin Maguss and Mari Iki

By Renee Bott

Martin Maguss and Mari Iki / photograph installation by Sean McFarland
Mari Iki and Martin Maguss are San Francisco collectors. They are avid collectors and have amassed an impressive collection with a modest budget.  Over the years, they have purchased works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauchenberg, Keith Haring, Francis Bacon, Nan Goldin, Gary Simmons, Vik Muniz—the list goes on. They have also been great supporters of the many local art galleries.  Pam and I met them in the late 1990s at the first Blackman art fair at Fort Mason where they purchased a small print from us.  At a recent dinner for the artist Gary Simmons, we found out that Martin began collecting art in high school. I wanted to see their collection, and I asked if I could interview them.

Q:                            Martin, when did your passion for collecting art begin?

Martin:                   My dad instilled the values—you save up, then you can buy what you want. Growing up in Canada, I was excited about American culture. In high school, Lichtenstein and Warhol were on my radar. I had a part-time job and saved enough to buy my first piece.

Q:                            The Lichtenstein was the first piece you purchased?

Martin:                   Yes. I showed it to my dad, and said, “I bought this artwork by an American artist who I absolutely admire, Roy Lichtenstein.” My dad asked me how much I paid for it, and when I told him, he was livid. I said, “Wait a minute. You told me to save, and if I saved enough money, I could buy whatever I wanted. So this is a win for everybody. Now I want to go to New York and meet Andy.” My dad said, “Andy who?” I told him, "I want to meet Andy Warhol."

Roy Lichtenstein, Hand and Foot, 1964 Color Silk Screen Print
Q:                            How did you know about these artists?

Martin:                   I was attracted to pop culture. While in high school, I’d also spend my free time in the National Gallery of Canada looking at Claes Oldenburg’s Bedroom Suite and the work of James Rosenquist. Expo 67 was also a big influence, because the American pavilion exhibited all the Pop artists. I travelled to Montreal to see it!

In university, I majored in graphic design and photography. I spent a great deal of time with close friends, having wonderful dialogues about the current artists—Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, and others in the early 1980s.

Q:                            Did you get to meet Andy Warhol?
Dining Room

Martin:                   Yes. I got on a Greyhound bus and went to New York. It was a different time, you could just do it. I’d met him a couple of times in Toronto as well. Meeting him really did change my perspective on art.

Q:                            So when you and Mari met, your relationship revolved around art?

Martin:                   We were talking, obviously, a lot about art. She took me to the Berkeley Art Museum to see this painting that she just loved.

Mari:                      I said, “Oh, you have to see this museum, because it’s just great.” I would go there all the time. I showed him my favorite piece—a painting by Francis Bacon.

Q:                            Mari, was there a conscious moment when you decided to start collecting?

Mari:                      For as far back as I can remember, whenever I travelled with my family, I went to museums. I stood in line to attend the Avedon retrospective that David Ross curated at the Berkeley Art Museum. I had all these posters of amazing shows that I’d been to. Later, after Martin and I met, we went to the Fraenkel Gallery.

Martin:                   That was October 1984.

Mari:                      Martin asked Jeffrey Fraenkel to show us the Mapplethorpe still lifes. They were gorgeous black and white images of orchids. I forget how much they were—$500, $700—but I just said, “Wow...that’s so much for a black and white multiple.” Martin told me, “You spend money on posters, you should think of getting the real thing. Like these photographs, they’re beautiful.” We never got one!

                                Before I met Martin, I used to go into the Stephen Wirtz Gallery, always looking at Raymond Saunders’s work. Later, I went in with Martin and looked at a Raymond Saunders print maybe ten times. Finally, with guidance from Stephen Wirtz, the Saunders print was the first piece that I purchased.
Nan Goldin's photograph: Skyline from My Window - NYC, 1999 anchors the entry way wall.
Q:                            But did you have to agree on this, or was this your own endeavor?
Mari:                      That was my first contemporary art “acquisition,” but we do tend to agree.

Martin:                   The amazing thing about our relationship is if Mari and I see an exhibition, we will usually independently pick out the exact same piece. We have to work within a budget—we don’t have a lot of “disposable income”—we both have regular jobs.

Mari:                      Frankly, when we’re interviewed about collecting, it’s to show that anybody can collect.

Q:                            There must have been a point at which you realized...

Mari:                      We saw a segment on 60 Minutes in 1995.

Q:                            It’s not about the Vogels is it?

Mari:                      Yes—Herb and Dorothy!

Martin:                   We had an epiphany. They were such an influence to us! They didn’t have a fancy New York City lifestyle, and they had a comparable budget to work with. We thought, “Here are people who think in a similar way.”

Mari:                      They have some of the same priorities! It’s okay to not want to get a new sofa or something, but to purchase art. Most of our decisions revolve around looking at or purchasing art. Our friends thought we were crazy.

Vik Muniz's ceramic plate Medusa, 1999 rests on the dining room table.
 Q:                            I want to focus for a moment on the idea of curating a collection. Do you have an overarching idea for your collection, or is it based on a gut reaction?

Mari:                      It is an informed gut reaction. I once asked a friend why a museum director had spent extra time with us. He said, “Because I explained to him that you have a collection.” I said, “But we don’t have a collection. We just collect.”

Q:                            Is that how you still think of it today? Or now that you have all this work, do you feel a sense of responsibility?

Mari:                      We do feel a certain responsibility. What happens to it when we’re not here? We haven’t really come up with...

Q:                            The perfect plan?

Martin:                   Yes. The one thing we’re consistent about…for any work in our collection, we will always loan for educational purposes. It’s for the betterment of the artist’s career; it’s not about us, it’s for them.

Q:                            What about your relationship to the artists who make the work? Is it important to meet the artist? Or does that change the relationship?

Mari:                      When we can meet them, it’s wonderful. For example, Sean McFarland, who shows at Eli Ridgway Gallery, is an emerging photographer, and we’ve learned a lot about his work by getting to know him.

Martin:                   I’ve always said to Mari, if there’s an opportunity to meet an artist, we should. I remember when Mari met Diebenkorn and Thiebaud; I met Warhol, Haring, and others. If you can hear them talking about their work, that’s the best!
Deborah Oropallo's painting High Heat (Respirators), 2002 in spotlight

Q:                            There’s no substitute for that.        

Martin:                   You’ve worked with Martin Puryear, Caio Fonseca, Radcliffe Bailey, Gary Simmons, and other artists that we admire. Artists that are continuing the line of creativity. Whether they work with paint, wood or other media—when they come into your studio and address another medium, the creativity is all the same! For us, there’s little distinction between painting, drawing, and works on paper.

Q:                            What is your advice to the novice collector?

Mari:                      Look everywhere, read a lot, and then remember to look at the new and emerging artists and galleries.

Martin:                   Mari and I spend an inordinate amount of time not only looking at work, but also talking about work. We’re always looking, even when we know we won’t be purchasing. We never buy for investment.

                                There are always opportunities for young collectors. Someone might not have the budget for a Kerry James Marshall painting, but they could consider one of his amazing prints.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Have Been Swimming"

By Rhea Fontaine-Charlot

The work of Isca Greenfield-Sanders has the ability to convert even the most jaded person into a hopeless romantic. Her paintings and etchings often seduce the viewer into a wistful state--suddenly yearning for days past or simply imagined. 

Isca Greenfield-Sanders: Wader I (Pink), Wader II (Pink), Wader I (Blue), Wader II (Blue), Pikes Peak, Mountain Stream, 2012

What better season to celebrate her six new etchings than summer? Isca's ocean waders and mountain bathers inspired all of us at Paulson Bott Press to share our own youthful images of summers spent by waters.

The Mertens-Bott clan, Martha's Vineyard, 2007
Z, Feather River, 1994
Sam, Stinson Beach, 2007

As the daughter of an English teacher, I am deeply programmed to live for summer days.  The three remaining seasons have always seemed but preludes to the main event. Growing up, my sisters and I spent long days in the Sierra, soaking up the fresh air and sunshine and jumping off rocks into lakes.

The Fontaine sisters, Mirror Lake, 1988

It is always the artist that inspires us to be, once again, at the water's edge, where we are living life to its fullest.  The joy of my summers at the lake is best expressed in one of my mother's poems:

Have Been Swimming

Summer's one
English Lesson
Came to me
As I frolicked
In the lake,
Whose waters
By August warmed
Let limbs
Cast easy strokes
Long reaching
Like love's memory
Washing over me.
By simplicity buoyed,
I floated free
Beneath a blue
That bore both
Sun and moon
To light my study
Of the Present Perfect tense.

Catherine Fontaine 8/02

Levi and Rhea, Merced River-Yosemite, 1977

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Walk with Daddy, 2008

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shy Town Summer

The Art Institute of Chicago and Millenium Park

By Pam Paulson

Stepping off the plane, Renee and I were engulfed by an ocean of hot air. Ninety-five degrees and 103% humidity (as our waiter later remarked). We caught a cab straight to the Art Institute of Chicago and met up with Mark Pascale. Mark is curating a show of Martin Puryear’s works on paper and invited us to discuss the prints we’ve made with Martin over the last 11 years. Graciously, Mark gave us a welcoming tour of the newish Renzo Piano addition, including the spacious gallery Martin’s exhibition will occupy. The light in the new section is refreshing, with windows overlooking native prairie gardens.

Pam Paulson in the Print Room at the AIC
 Mark further indulged us by taking us into the cavernous storage rooms of the works on paper collection, where row upon row of large flat files housed works slumbering in a climate-controlled stupor. Mark opened drawers and unshelved framed works, rousing Lee Bontecou etchings printed by Tatyana Grosman, gigantic Russian war posters, a dog collage by Joan Brown, and a charcoal study by Kerry James Marshall that I will never forget. Next up was the conservation department, where we talked glue theory with the conservators and enjoyed inspecting all their work areas and tools.

Finally, we found repose in the study room in the company of “Profile” by Martin Puryear and kicked back for an overview of the material that has been gathered to date for the show. Last fall, we shipped 99 working proofs and miscellaneous ephemera from our projects with Martin to the Art Institute to document the process of making the prints. It is really amazing to see this idea for the exhibition take shape.
Renee and Pam infront of the Kapoor

Mark visited Martin a few months ago with Ruth Fine (curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art) and Harriet Stratis (head of paper conservation at the Art Institute) to take a look at his personal archive of works on paper. Martin studied printmaking in Sweden and made highly successful prints early in his career. Renee and I had glimpsed these early works the first time we visited Martin’s studio. It was great fun to be virtually reintroduced.
Exiting the museum, we swam over to Millennium Park, strolling beside smartly designed fountains full of hot Chicagoans cooling themselves in the mist.  We wound our way over to the fun house mirror, “Cloud Gate” (Anish Kapoor’s monumental bean) and around to Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. All wows!

The next day we looked at all the working proofs and the correlating edition prints, analyzing how we got from A to B. Not always easy to recreate, but thanks to usefully redundant documentation, we were satisfied we had it right. Mostly!

Later, after a quick walk to the lake, we met up with our old friend Stephanie Sherman for drinks and dinner at Gage, across from the museum. Stephanie (an amazing art professional) introduced us to the very handsome Billy Lawless, who owns Gage as well as Henri, its sister restaurant next door. We relaxed with a great cheese plate, fine martinis, a venison burger, and the fabulous staff. Then it was on to Henri for a memorable dessert at the bar.

Andy Cutting & Brice McCoy at Henri

Thankfully, the next morning, the temperature had backed down, and rainclouds mitigated the blazing sun. Skirting downpours, we paid a visit to Kerry James Marshall’s studio. Kerry is an amazingly productive individual. He has multiple projects in the works and then some. We were delighted to see several of his models, who closely resemble the one he worked with while in our studio.
Barbi Dolls at KJM's studio
Of great interest to me are the costumes Kerry and his assistant have designed and sewn for his dolls/models to wear when he draws them. They intentionally avoid recalling a discernible time period yet remain oddly familiar. The use of oversized elements like buttons and textures from the ribbing of socks upends the expected.
We boarded the plane back to the Bay Area exhausted and inspired. However, we were certainly not as exhausted as this guy in Renee’s row.

Face plant sleeper.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gary Simmons: An Account of Time

      Bonham Marquee 2012                         Chandelier Spin 2012

By Renee Bott

Some ideas take years to cultivate. Printers need a patient side.

In 1997 Paulson Bott Press was a year old.  We had several projects underway and were enjoying the exhilaration of starting a new business and achieving some success. In November of that year, Pam and I left our first studio in Emeryville for our second trip to New York to visit some artists.  Gary Simmons was the first person on our list; we had arranged to meet in his studio on a cold November morning.

Gary’s studio was located on one of the many floors of a vast studio building in Chelsea. At that time he had an exhibition up at Metro Pictures. He said the next few years were extremely busy for him, but he would consider our invitation to come to the east bay and make prints. 

In the years that followed, I was fortunate to see several of Gary’s exhibitions and installations. I always appreciate it when I experience a transcendent art moment. By this, I mean a moment when I connect to the work in a way that makes me want to remember what I saw, to remember how I felt when I stood in front of that piece. Gary’s installation at the Contemporary Museum of Art in San Diego in 1997 was a moment like that. 

Directly across from the main entrance to the museum, I could see his work on the far gallery wall. I didn’t hesitate; the force of his work pulled me in. I paused before his installation Gazebo.  It was a breathtaking, larger than life drawing of a gazebo on a dark charcoal wall with Gary’s signature “erasure” of the chalk drawn structure.  It was like a wild wind had encircled the porch. Or perhaps it was a fading memory. Rife with historical references the work conjured southern mansions and formal tea along with echoes of the long civil rights battles still being waged today. 

Gary Simmons: Gazebo, 1997

Erasure: Video of Gary Simmons at Paulson Bott Press by Bill Freais

Years later, in the fall of 2010, I picked up Gary from the Anthony Meiers Gallery in San Francisco. He and his assistant folded themselves into my Mini Cooper and we headed over to our studio in Berkeley for lunch and a tour of the press. He was serious about our invitation; it just took him a while to get around to accepting it.

Starlite Theatre 2012

Gary was immediately at ease in the studio, experimenting with everything available to try out on a copper plate.  With his presence the studio instantly had a different energy, the printers curious and watchful, eager to engage with this thoughtful and talkative artist.  It is a great feeling to be involved in the moment of an artist’s creation. Discoveries are being made, mistakes are happening. The trial and error of working with a new medium gives way to something new and magical. 

In November of 2010 Pam and I once again climbed the stairs to his New York studio.  We were in town to see the Armory Fair. By that Friday afternoon, we had already seen a whole lot of art and our feet were tired. The studio was pristine.  The walls were carefully arranged with his latest work, completed and ready to ship to Simon Lee in London for his opening there.  After the pandemonium of the art fair, Gary’s quiet studio was uplifting, like walking in to a cool cathedral on a hot summer day in Rome.  Pam and I sat down and admired his ghost ships and deck chairs. This was, hands down, the most exciting art we had seen in New York that week.

Gary worked at Paulson Bott Press for a week in the fall of 2011 and completed three prints. He came back for a few more days in January 2012 and completed the project, making three more images.  The first three prints reference Kubrick’s film The Shining. Two of the prints taunt us with the repeated type written line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  The third, a large six panel piece depicts two ominously swinging turn of the century chandeliers from a scene of the hotel’s interior. Another related image is a spinning classical chandelier from a still of Hitchcock’s masterpiece Marnie . Simmons has a fascination with horror movies and related material including theater marquees, which are the subjects for two more of his prints. Images of the Bonham and Starlite marquees shimmer as if blinking out for the final time as they disappear from the American landscape.

Last month we returned to Gary’s studio to sign prints. We were delighted that the discussion touched on ideas for future projects. Gary explained that the process had led him to think about his mark making differently. That he had enjoyed the experience of spending more time in the space of making his drawings. Some things just take time.

All Work And No Play, 2011
  All Work Reversal, 2011

Thursday, March 1, 2012

15 Years: Part 2

When two people start a business they don’t often think about the historic perspective. That would seem a little grand. So it’s counter intuitive that two women as modest as Pam Paulson and Renee Bott would think about their work in this perspective from the outset. However, they both knew that the work they would produce at their press, the collaboration between master printers and renowned artists would be of interest to curators, collectors, historians, and artists at some point in the future. 
In this interview we asked founders Pam and Renee and Gallery Director Rhea Fontaine-Charlot’s perspective on the press at fifteen.

-Kenneth Caldwell

Pam, Rhea and Renee in the gallery, 2006

Now that you have been in existence for fifteen years, there must be a substantial archive.

Renee Bott:                                 
That’s true. We consider every print that we rip up or keep to be a record of what we're doing. Along with that, we document the projects. We have a time capsule that plots our history. We started that from the very first day. We understood that if we created something, we wanted it to have a legacy as we move forward.

Paulson Bott Press showroom

How does the idea of the archive, with all of its evidence and documentation, influence your process?

Pam Paulson:                              
Perhaps it helps us to be even more careful about whom we choose to work with. When there is catalog raisonné of the work we want to be able to look back and see a strong vision.

How have the projects changed over the last few years? How has your thinking changed?

When we consider whom to invite now, we start by asking ourselves the question, where does this artist fit into our overall program as it moves forward?

Rhea Fontaine-Charlot:          
We are interested in a broad platform with a mix of artists. We don’t want to be predictable, and we are very focused on artists who add to the conversation in the realm of the work that they are doing, not just what we are doing.

Pam and Renee with Ross Bleckner

It's very difficult to invite someone to come and spend two weeks with us and then work hard, long hours every day if it’s someone whose work you're not totally excited about.

Let’s talk more about the process in the studio. When an artist comes here, one of you is assigned to them?

Renee and I take turns being in charge of a project.

There is always a master printer in charge to streamline decision-making and communication. When you are building a print, it is like building a house. You don't want a carpenter doing plumbing before it's ready.

It's like one chef in the kitchen and a bunch of sous chefs. Things get delegated throughout the project. I may do the color; Renee's making the decisions about the plate-making. You always find the strongest person or the person that’s right for the job.

For example, a younger printer might end up working in the acid room, allowing the master printer to be with the artist. Critical communication happens right after you've pulled a print. Decisions are made: What are we going to do next? How are we going to do it? Especially with an artist who has never made prints before, it's a teaching process. So you want to introduce concepts and ideas in a way that they can see how it's going to help them get to where they want to go.

It's a really tough thing, because we're trying to keep the artist busy and engaged, but there's a lot of technical work to be done. So the printers are really juggling. It demands a lot of energy.

I want to know more about the collaboration with the artist.

Often we visit their studio and discuss what ideas they have.

When they come here, we ask them what size print they'd like to make and narrow it down to a few images or ideas. Then we cut a piece of copper and stick it in front of them and say, go at it, one-way, or the other.

Most artists have done some thinking before they come here. It's not like they walk in with a completely blank slate, because that's not usually comfortable for them.

Radcliffe Bailey

But that idea could utterly change?


And sometimes their ideas are so fixed, it takes a few days to work through to something that works with the etching process.

There is a moment when they're actually looking at the proof you pulled, rather than the idea that's in their head. And they start responding, and that’s when the process really starts moving.

When Pam and I go to their studio and see what's up on their wall and start talking to them about it, that's when a lot of things start to click.  It's pretty rare that people come in and we have no idea what they're going to do. And yet, in this last project with Tauba Auerbach, she had a bunch of ideas that we had not discussed. Every day it was a different surprise.

We went through so many different ideas, and she'd test one for a day or two or occasionally three to see if we could get the results that were satisfying to her.

Other surprises?

Then there was also Radcliffe Bailey. We showed him sugarlift, and he took off his shoes. He stuck his foot in the sugarlift and walked across the print. We had never seen someone do that before. We were washing his feet trying to get the ink off—just like Jesus.

Chris Johanson came in and said, “I want to make the ugliest print I can make.” He did all these hard zigzaggy marks on five or six plates. Then when we put them all together, it was kind of a beautiful thing.

Chris Johanson

What about the future?

It is about staying true to our instincts.

We've learned to rely on good relationships.

And that means making time to communicate with people, all kinds of people.

There are two sides, the commerce and the artists. I feel very strongly about keeping the artists in your heart. We would not be here without them. You have to try and be humble