Posts Tagged ‘letterpress’


Monday, September 13th, 2010

“Habib, you need to see this film. We have to start thinking about the posters. I’ll be in New York with a DVD–THE ONLY DVD–next week.” We met over sushi. I was instructed to watch and destroy the little piece of plexiglass within 24 hours. 24 hours later, armed with tin-snips and a nihilistic grin I clicked the hook of my speakerphone in the presence of a witness, destroyed the disc, discussed its contents and began thinking about the posters for Vincent Gallo’s new project, ‘Promises Written In Water’. This was late September of 2009.

Having seen, months before anyone, what was mutually agreed would become the most vilified project screened on the 2010 festival circuit was an honor. Having been asked to reflect its unflinching refusal to assume the role of anything remotely resembling what plot-device-dependent critics or attention deficient audiences consider ‘a movie’ was a privilege. ‘Promises’ isn’t a movie. I refer to it very intentionally as ‘a project’ because that’s what it is. It’s a psychological experiment. It’s the painting of a still-life rendered in extreme chiaroscuro that draws you in at a museum–the one you sit contemplating for 75 minutes while re-inventing the moment that inspired a painter to meditate upon a single frame of life for days, weeks or months before that meditation was considered a finished canvas.

Directors dream of the interactive film. They agonize over the technology to bring them there–acquiescing along the way to the lazy novelty of gimmickery like 3-D as a means to con some simulacra of ‘reality’ from the hackneyed concepts and overwrought exposition absent from a ‘real’ life rich in natural dimension and spontaneity. The efforts of Hollywood’s lo-com-denom-thinkers are for nought. The interactive film exists. It’s ‘Promises Written In Water’. Gallo’s already made it. Stop searching. Shut the server-farms DOWN.

The beauty of ‘Promises’ lies in its coarse simplicity. It’s simple because, with two exceptions, the anchors that make movies movies have been removed. It’s not that they never existed. They existed. They were consciously *removed*. The project wants nothing to do with digestiblity. It wants to be the fiber to wring the putrified celluloid waste from the creases of your mind and frankly, it doesn’t care if you can’t be bothered to see how psyllium makes that trash you consume just a little bit better for you. It doesn’t care precisely because it *IS* interrogative. It asks you to lend it your vulnerability–to use it as a mirror by which its constant and active retrieval and reconstruction of memory can become your own. It demands that you reflect with it upon the most absurd corner love has ever backed you into and that you impossibly throw that moment on the table, not as a memory, but as an object–EXACTLY as it existed as time–or how your stuttering mind wishes it ought to have happened. If the project fails to resonate with a viewer, half of that failure is rooted in the viewer’s own narcissistic inability to empathize. The other half of that failure is rooted in the viewer’s never having submitted to the wild winds of senseless, unconventional love. Primal interactivity. The viral film.

The documents branding ‘Promises Written In Water’, like the project itself, refuse to be movie posters. Each print is hand-burnished letterpress on unreasonably-fragile proof-weight newsprint. The letterpress blocks are roughly jigsaw cut from cheap, warped poplar and etched in such a way that only imperfect registration is assured. After rolling a soy-based ink atop the nearly 4′ x 2′ wood-block collage and rubbing the prints out one-by-one, they’re hung on a clothesline to dry for at least 3 days and then individually trimmed to size. The prints rip, dimple and dent with even the most precious of handling. Gallo calls them ‘paper-collectibles.’ I’m making exactly as many as we need–of these one-sheets and of the much-larger, more-complicated 2-sheets.


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Every step of WASTE has taken considerably longer to complete than I’d hoped. I’m finally starting to letterpress finished books on laser-cut, grommet-bound canvas pages. Printed Matter should have at least a few early copies in the next 2 weeks. Upset with how much time each book takes to make–and the resulting book price associated with those hours–I decided to do something to at least make the content of the book accessible to people who might not otherwise want to shell-out for a spendy edition.

I made 50 MASSIVE newsprint xeroxes of a first-proof collage from the hand-burnished prints I pulled off of the woodblocks. That basically means that the artwork represented in this edition is, in some cases, substantially different than the artwork that’ll be in the final book. I’ve made a number of revisions after having seen these proofs. So, in effect, this poster is an artifact of my book-making process.

The posters are 36″ x 72″ in a numbered edition of 50 and have obi wrappers to keep them rolled. The obis are all coffee cup hand-protectors I’ve been pulling out of the trash and spraypainting with a stencil of the WASTE logotype. Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, 7-11 and an assortment of other random local coffee houses are represented in the re-purposed cardboard wraps.

Printed Matter has them here for $30. If you contact me directly, I can sell you one for $20 in NYC or $25 shipped in the US.

waste poster edition


Friday, August 29th, 2008

I always loved Cynthia Connolly’s photos. Her icebox portraits were stunning–this collection of these forgotten artifacts of design, convenience and refrigeration–collected and documented with the same respect anthropologists would pay to a tribe of Algonquins in traditional regalia on a reservation somewhere. A few weeks ago, I saw one of her photos of Alleged Gallery’s last NYC group show in a Times article about Beautiful Losers. Monika asked if I was the sole person in the photo–crouched on the floor, working on a video installation. I was.

I dug up this invite that Cynthia had made for a show in SF back in 2001. I hung onto it as it was the first concrete reinforcement that came across my mailbox as to how accessible letterpress could still be in such a digital age. I remember emailing Cynthia after receiving the invite and asking her about the press and the type. She said she’d been rather ravenously collecting type sets and had a monstrously heavy press. I had always loved old dadaist and futurist letterpress work. I knew that the center for book arts here in NY had a press. I had always wanted to play around, but never mustered up the chutzpah to just do it. So, I filed this away and promised myself that one day I’d find a project that would force me to somehow experiment with letterpress.

Last week, I started pulling together all of the production components for a new book edition I’m about to release. The edition, like FORE, has two incarnations–a numbered collection of 5 offset posters bundled together and editioned at 300 pieces and a signed and numbered edition of 400 18″x24″ 15 page books–where each book has a different hand-stenciled painting atop each of the poster prints. As the posters are all riffs on a wallpaper line I’m working on, the paintings are each of something different that happens against, on or near a wall when society’s collective back is against a wall. In keeping with this theme, the project is titled, “BUT THEY DON’T BLINK.” It, like FORE, is another wayward children’s book.

Anyway, letterpress–I needed a set of bold typography to be applied to the packaging I designed for the project. Once I had decided that I would hand-stencil 6000 paintings, I figured, “what the fuck! I’ll leterpress the 400 packages too!” I couldn’t though, so I’m faking it with block printing. I laser etched a set of rubber blocks with my typograghy, mounted them on foam and then to acrylic blocks. It’s not exactly letterpress yet, but I’m getting there. I just wanted to take this post to give Cynthia props for inspiring that.

Here’s Cynthia’s invite. I’ll post my stamps and posters as shelflife 13A later this weekend–along with a great Wolf Eyes lathe that Nate traded me sometime back as 13B.