New book revives old art talk PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by By DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 29 May 2009 10:37
Julia Klein got her first taste of publishing right out of college. A University of Michigan graduate in fibers, she moved to New York in 2003 and there landed a job with legendary publisher George Braziller.
The self-educated do-it-yourselfer, a pioneer in mail order distribution, Braziller had pulled her resume from a stack of 400 resumes and found something that appealed to him. "I just got lucky," Klein said.
"He could be difficult," Klein, a 1998 graduate of Bowling Green High School, said recently. But he also taught the young people who worked for him everything he knew that he'd gathered in 50 years in publishing, that included producing books by Jean Paul Sartre.
Those lessons have culminated in Klein's publishing her first book "Artists' Sessions at Studio 35 (1950)" on her own Soberscove Press imprint.
It was while working with Braziller that Klein first encountered the manuscript that is her maiden effort as a publisher.
Included in the papers of artist Robert Goodnough that had been submitted to Braziller was an edited transcript of three days of discussions by some of the giants of the New York art scene in the 1950s including Robert Motherwell, Louise Bourgeois, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning and others.
Braziller decided not to publish the Goodnough papers, but Klein was taken by the transcript of the art discussions.
"Why did they not show me this in art school?" she wondered. "This is an iconic text."
The text has stayed in her mind for the intervening years.
She moved to Chicago to work as an administrator at the University of Chicago first with the creative writing program and now with the university's Society of Fellows, a program for students doing post-doctoral work in the humanities and society. During summers she's earned her Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Bard College in the New York's Hudson River Valley.
She met with Goodnough tried to determine who owned the rights of the typescript, which had been published but was out of print. She ended up copublishing with Wittenborn Art Books.
She was unable to locate the original typescript from which Goodnough had created the edited text. Even in abridged form the conversations were essential, Klein believed.
The cover photos capture the spirit of the times. a dozen or so artists gathered around a table with beers at hand.
The conversations probe such essential matters as when the artist knows a work is finished or how the artist titles work and how that changes the way the art is perceived.
"I think when titles are very suggestive, they are a kind of a fraud because they throw the spectator away from the picture rather than into it," James Brooks insists.
They discuss the nature of beauty and the artist's role in society. "We have no position in the world - absolutely no position except that we just insist upon being around," de Kooning says.
"These things are so relevant," Klein said. As a practicing artist these issues reflect what she does.
And this she finds "more interesting than globalization nor gender" topics in fashion in academic art circles.
She finds younger artists have little knowledge of these artists collectively known as the Abstract Expressionists, a term the artists themselves argue about.
"You can't appreciate contemporary art if you don't appreciate what came before it," she said.
And, she added, "the mythology" surrounding this gathering of artistic luminaries appeals to her.
Klein is selling the book for $10, and se intends to keep all future books at a similarly low price.
"If I break even that would be great," she said. "I don't expect to quit my day job to do this."

Last Updated on Friday, 29 May 2009 12:38