Horror Story: Eight Artists Engage with Mass Culture through Traumatic Imagery

October 25, 2014 through January 10, 2015

The idea for this show emerged from an ongoing interest in the idea of spectacle—specifically, Andy Warhol’s engagement with the subject. His Death and Disaster series embraced the horrific image to construct a commentary of historical trauma. Roger Kamholz wrote, “Warhol took the senseless tragedies of his time, ones that expressed the fractures and failures of the American dream, and presented them as history painting, in the tradition of grand, wrenching statements like Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa (1819) and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937).”

Thinking more about this show and spectacle, I realized that in Aristotle’s outline of tragedy, spectacle is just one part of his thinking. “Horror Story” is really a show about the tragedy of violence.

1968 (detail) (300 dpi ; web)

Christopher Brown’s prints Continental and Flag are depictions of stills from the Zapruder film. Edgar Arceneaux’s etching 1968 depicts the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Brown uses cheesecloth on softground plate to create the look of a TV screen, and Arceneaux depicts the Starship Enterprise in the far distance of his image, making both interpretations feel a bit detached from the actual events. Arceneaux’s Beyond the Great Eclipse series depicts ephemera from the Watts riots of 1965. All of these tragedies continue to haunt our perceptions of the 1960s.

Brown Continental  Brown Flag

Examining the horrors of the slave trade, David Huffman’s print Remuneration, 2007, along with Radcliffe Bailey’s Passage Goe, 2011, are chilling portraits of the architecture built in order to traffic human beings.

Passage Goree       Remuneration

Perhaps it is the horror film genre that can best engage traumatic history and confront viewers with it. Gary Simmons’ All Work and No Play references Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. Simmons often uses metaphor and American popular culture to create works that address personal and collective experiences of race and class. In Kubrick’s film, there are several shots of Native American architecture, and the hotel is filled with Native American décor. The hotel, built on a sacred Indian burial ground, was haunted due to this desecration. Many theorize that the film is exploring the early American settlers’ exploitation and killing of the Native Americans.

All Work No Play

Again referencing film, Hernan Bas’ prints The Tenant and The Previous Tenant are images of the protagonist in Roman Polanski’s Film, Le Locataire, or The Tenant. The film explores the violence of the loss of privacy and the theme of victimization. Kota Ezawa’s prints Man and Woman and Stairs depict the scenes on the Odessa steps from the classic film Battleship Potemkin. The film terrifies the viewer with images of the brutal massacre of dozens of defenseless men, women, and children.

Bas and KJM

Lastly, Kerry James Marshall’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein address Mary Shelley’s classic novel and its racial resonances in the United States. Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein, states that “these Black Frankenstein stories effect four kinds of racial critique: they humanize the slave; they explain, if not justify, black violence; they condemn the slave owner; and they expose the instability of white power.” Again, Kerry James Marshall uses metaphor to explore the violence of slavery.

-Rhea Fontaine

Obamas’ Collection

We are thrilled to announce that our print Starlite Theatre, 2012 by Gary Simmons has joined the Obamas’ collection!
Simmons painted a series of drive-in theaters and Starlite Theatre, a long gone establishment of 1950’s Dallas, was one of only a few to welcome black patrons.

Using icons and stereotypes of American popular culture, Gary Simmons creates works that address personal and collective experiences of race and class. He is best known for his “erasure drawings,” in which he draws in white chalk on slate-painted panels or walls, then smudges them with his hands – a technique that renders their imagery ghostly. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the MCA Chicago, The Walker Art Center, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY among others. Gary Simmons is represented by Metro Pictures Gallery in NY, Simon Lee Gallery in London and Regen Projects in L.A.


Starelite Theatre

Hernan Bas

When Hernan contacted Paulson Bott Press to purchase a print by Tauba Auerbach, I took the opportunity to invite him to make etchings.  For many years I had been enthralled by Hernan’s paintings and extremely curious about the man responsible for many of the “Renaissance in Detroit” stories I had read.

Hernan grew up in Florida and became widely celebrated as a Miami artist. His more recent move to Detroit was motivated by his need for escape and discovery. These same desires are evoked in his paintings.  Detroit has become a lonely, abandoned city, now haunted by the ghosts of America’s failed promises, the perfect muse for Bas and his depictions of boyish exploration, supernatural landscapes, death, and rebirth.

Hernan Bas, The Hallucinations of Poets (dandelion), 2010; Acrylic on linen

Hernan can push paint.  The skill with which he draws and paints is astounding.   His bold palette and confident mark-making is fast and detailed.

He pushes boundaries as well.  He breaks through to the other side, chases pleasures here, and digs treasures there. His embrace of sexuality and a queer perspective is bold and unapologetic.

Hernan Bas, Comus in a Drunken Stupor, 2013; Color Etching

Hernan and I came of age in the same decade, and I connect with his work in the same way that I connect with the post-punk, alt rock mood of the nineties.  My dream dates were once Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain, and there lived in me a deep longing for a life on the fringe, a feeling of alienation, a rejection of some idea I had of the mainstream. It was all “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”

Hernan Bas, Sketches for prints, 2013 Graphite on vellum

It is no surprise that Hernan has been influenced by the writings of Joris Karl-Huysmans, who first defined the Decadent Art Movement.  Karl-Huysmans’ book Against Natureillustrated disgust with modern life and deep pessimism.  As art historian Otto Urban put it in an interview in F Newsmagazine, “there was much that that decadence introduced for the first time, above all themes that had been taboo (sexuality, Satanism and Anarchism).”  In Urban’s words, “The portrayal of the horror and madness of the modern world became a key theme of Decadence.  Decadence no longer had utopian visions of change, but only a grimace of ridicule and a longing for isolation.” 

Hernan in the Paulson Bott Press studio, 2013

Yet Hernan’s paintings have a redemptive power to remind us of our utopian dreams. Hernan takes this loneliness and spins it into gold. He is the contemporary artist whose self-imposed solitude inspired the alchemists of old.  After long hours in our studio, Hernan returned to his hotel and continued to work. He’d arrive back the next morning with a fresh group of drawings to inspire his prints, playfully experimenting with every technique intaglio has to offer.  The resulting body of work reflects an ongoing transformation between nocturnal longings and the glories of a new day.


Martin Puryear

I can remember years ago, when I first interviewed for the position at Paulson Bott, my friend and former colleague, Sherry Apostol encouraged me by stating, “What a great place, Rhea. You have got to work for them; they work with Martin Puryear!” 

Before I had met Martin in person, another colleague compared the experience of his company with that of being in the presence of the Dali Lama.   When I met Martin in 2002, I realized that she was right.  His grace is remarkable.  In his company, one knows they are in the presence of greatness.  Martin is very soft spoken, but when he speaks, people listen. 

Martin Puryear, Reliquary, 1980, Gessoed pine; Martin Puryear, Self, 1978, Stained and painted red cedar and mahogany. Photo Courtesy the New Museum

 We also listen to his art– the vibrations, the emotions released from his sculptures.
They speak of the natural world, the human spirit and world history.  They nod at, bow to and break down our notions of the object.  Like Martin, they are quiet, magical and sublime.

Martin employs wood, mesh, stone and metal to create forms that resist identification.  They evoke the future and the past, both forging ahead and leaning back.  They excite and provoke and comfort.

Martin Puryear, North Cove Pylons, 1992-5, Granite and stainless steel

It is my greatest pleasure as Gallery Director at Paulson Bott, to introduce his work to those who have yet to discover it.  I often resist my temptation to scream, “What? You don’t know who Martin Puryear is?!”  “Haven’t you heard, the critic Robert Hughes has only declared him to be ‘America’s Best Artist’!”

Martin Puryear, This Mortal Coil, 1998-99 Red cedar, stainless steel cable, aluminum, and muslin

Martin’s first comprehensive show in the California bay area was in 2001 at the Berkeley Art Museum.  Sadly, it’s opening day was September 11th and many missed the exhibit for obvious reasons.  Slight redemption took place in the fall of 2008  when his retrospective,Martin Puryear, traveled to the SFMOMA.  It was an exciting chance for the bay to experience his impressive oeuvre.   I remember speaking with a friend who had just seen the show, and she stated, “I’ve always admired the images I’ve seen of his work but standing next to the sculpture in person literally gave me goose bumps.”

After the opening, the SFMOMA hosted a spectacular dinner at the St. Regis to honor Martin.  Neal Benezra spoke to the group and expressed how fortunate we all were to be sharing such a momentous occasion with an artist of his caliber.   It is indeed our privilege at Paulson Bott Press to engage with an artist that we know will mark our time and leave a lasting legacy in the art world and beyond.

Martin Puryear, Phrygian, 2012 Color Aquatint Etching; Published by Paulson Bott Press


“Have Been Swimming”

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

Keep on Trek-King!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has come and gone.  Nevertheless, I thought I would take this opportunity to honor the great man whom we celebrate on this day. This year marks the 25th anniversary of America’s honoring him with a federal holiday.

I just got off the phone with my mother, who was recounting where she was on April 4th, 1968. Forty-three years ago this January, she traveled from San Francisco to the Bronx to become a VISTA Volunteer and participate in what had begun with President Kennedy’s and Sargent Shriver’s domestic Peace Corps. program.(Shriver died yesterday at the age of 95.) Kennedy and Shriver’s vision in the early 1960s had led to the founding of a national service corps to help provide urgently needed services to both America’s rural and urban poor.

My mother and many other young and idealistic baby boomers had decided to serve their fellow Americans because they truly believed that a difference could be made that would change racial and economic inequalities in our country. After spending six weeks in the Bronx, my mother and a number of other VISTA volunteers were sent to Newark where they were working in the Central Ward on that fateful day in April. My mom recalls looking out of their second-floor apartment down to the street where policemen armed with shotguns had taken position. The world was expected to explode in response to the nightmare of violence that had taken Martin Luther King’s life, and it did in many communities across America. According to my mother, the fear was palpable for days and weeks.

More than that, it seemed that the civil rights movement, then focused on economic injustices, might be set back indefinitely.  Unbelievably, only two short months later, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. By the beginning of summer in 1968, there was scant light left to lead the idealists. The spirit of an entire generation, and all of America, was challenged in great ways, but King’s life and the strength of all he championed would not, could not, will never be turned around.  His truth survives and continues to transform our nation’s values. With him, we are all still marching towards “the promised land.”

Edgar Arceneaux, “1968”, 2005 Courtesy Paulson Bott Press

Edgar Arceneaux’s etching “1968” depicts the infamous day.   The sketched figures in the foreground point to the sky, where in the distance the USS Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame enters the picture frame.  This juxtaposition humorously alludes to the disparate and sometimes conflicting accounts of King’s death.  It points to the absurdity of a still unsolved crime.  The two elements are demarcated by the title “1968,” also the year of the Star Trek episode, Assignment: Earth, in which the Enterprise travels back to earth on a mission to save the planet and its inhabitants.   Another side note is that Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was an integral part of the original series’ multicultural crew and one of the first characters of African descent to be featured on an American television series.  Nichols had planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, but following a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr., she was persuaded to stay.  He helped her realize what an important role model for the black community she would be.

I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a world that has benefited from King’s work, and I am forever grateful to the lovers and the thinkers who came before me who made the quality of my life possible.  I am also honored to work with artists like Arceneaux who continue to examine the past and the present through a truly creative and contemporary lens.


Edgar Arceneaux is fascinated by language, and by establishing unexpected connections among words, objects, places, and people. His installations may incorporate not only drawing, sculpture, and film, but also music, conceptual art, and science, juxtaposing representative elements of each and opening up newfound associations,unintended connections, interstitial spaces—in his words, “a different way to construct relationships among things.”

Arceneaux was born in 1972 in Los Angeles, where he continues to live and work. He currently serves as executive director of the Watts House Project, an “ongoing, collaborative artwork in the shape of a neighborhood redevelopment” across from the historic Watts Towers in Los Angeles; he has been working on the WHP since 1996. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Susanne Vielmetter Projects in Los Angeles and Berlin; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Albion Gallery, London; and Galerie Kamm, Berlin. He received a BFA from Art Center College of Design and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.

To read an interview with Edgar Arceneaux click here


New Year, new Blog!

Happy New Year to all of our good friends and supporters!
Paulson Bott Press is happy to celebrate the New Year by announcing our new BLOG!  For us, this year means a renewed commitment to what it is we love: making and publishing fine art prints. We look forward to sharing more about our process, our artists and ultimately our etchings. We’re kicking off the year with an Opening for Shaun O’Dell Friday, January 14th, from 6-9pm. The show will include his five new etchings along with works on paper. There will be a live musical performance by Words (Shaun O’Dell, Randy Lee Southerland & Jeff Anderson). 

We hope you will join us.
Here’s to Health, Happiness and Art in 2011!

Three new prints by Shaun O’Dell
Overheard in the Studio:
“Shaun started this project by bringing in compositions made of collaged copies of his existing drawings. He really liked the graphic quality of the Xerox and was interested in replicating that ‘copy feeling’ in the prints. This led to our use of a soft ground fabric plate for the background of the three larger images.
“Our intention was to capture the grainy grays that were in the collages by manipulating the fabric.  It was a challenge to really capture the look, so we ended up using different color inks to emulate the various densities of value in the background.
Renee Bott & Shaun O’Dell in the Studio


Kota Ezawa, “Stairs”, 2009
“We also utilized the step etch spitbite method that we used with Kota Ezawa during his 2009 project.
Shaun O’Dell, “Plunged Into It”, 2010 (Detail)


“This method created all of Shaun’s tight little lines of varying value. The blue detail in “Plunged Into It” is a perfect example. It’s an extremely laborious way to do spitbite and it requires a bit of luck. If done correctly and luck is with you, the end result is beautiful.”- Renee Bott

Step Etch Spitbite in progress

To read an interview with Shaun O’ Dell please go here

Shaun playing music in the studio