IFPDA Fair-Re-cap

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.


Collector’s Profile: Martin Maguss and Mari Iki

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?



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?



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?



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


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?



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



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?



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.



That was October 1984.



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? 



That was my first contemporary art “acquisition,” but we do tend to agree.



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.



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…



We saw a segment on 60 Minutes in 1995.


Q:   It’s not about the Vogels is it?



Yes—Herb and Dorothy!



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.”



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?



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?



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?



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?



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.



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.



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?



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



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.



Shy Town Summer

The Art Institute of Chicago and Millenium Park

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.
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.

Pam Paulson in the Print Room at the AIC


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.
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!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.

Renee and Pam infront of the Kapoor



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.

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’s perspective on the press at fifteen.

-Kenneth Caldwell

Pam, Rhea and Renee in the gallery, 2006

Q: 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

Q:    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.


Q:   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:

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.


Q:     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.


Q:      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

Q:  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.


Q:      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

Q:  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



Celebrating 15 Years: Part 1

 By Constance Lewallen

At Paulson Bott Press, instinct, and even passion, directs the selection of artists. This is how the press came to work with the women from the Gee’s Bend, Alabama, quilt collective. A quilting center since before the Civil War, Gee’s Bend is known for colorful, quasi-geometric designs that, although based on historical American and African examples, appeal to a modern art sensibility. The highly successful multi-museum tour of Gee’s Bend quilts organized in 2002 by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, brought international fame to this small, rural community. Pam Paulson happened to see that exhibition when it was presented in New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art and fell in love. When she showed the catalog to her father, he suggested the press invite the quilters to make prints.  
Long story short, Pam and Renee Bott were able to interest two generations of quilters –Mary Lee Bendolph, whom Pam calls “ the heart and soul of the Gees Bend quilters,” and her daughter-in-law Louisiana Bendolph.

Gee’s Bend, Alabama, circa 1937; Mary Lee Bendolph, Past & Gone, 2005


Once they had a commitment, Pam and Renee needed to figure out how to capture the essence of Gee’s Bend quilts in an entirely different medium. They bought sewing machines so that the women could compose their prints by piecing small quilt tops. The elder artist followed the tradition of using worn clothing that she believed carried the presence of the former owner, while Louisiana Bendolph preferred new, bright, solid-colored fabrics. After the artists and printers chose the best designs for prints, the printers made impressions of the quilted pieces with soft ground. Pam remembers, “Each time we pulled a proof there was a hallelujah or a praise Jesus. Often in a quiet moment Mary Lee would break into a gravelly soulful rendition of a church song accompanied by Lou’s rhythmically syncopated clapping.” A second project included two more quilters, and, like the first, resulted in a dazzling array of images—evoking such modern masters as Paul Klee and Stuart Davis but with a spirit all their own. While it’s true that etchings and quilts are two different animals–obviously the prints have no texture or functionality–the designs translate magnificently from one medium to the other, and, like quilts, etchings are hand-made and in their own way evoke the hand of the maker.

Thanks to their experience at Paulson Bott, the quilters now think of themselves as artists. And, they appreciate that through the distribution of their graphic images their work has become appreciated by a wider public.

Mary Lee Bendolph in Paulson Bott Press Studio

I begin with the Gee’s Bend project, because it demonstrates the press’s approach: the artist’s vision comes first; Pam and Renee then find a way, even if it means inventing and developing new techniques, to realize that vision. For Chris Ballantyne, it was printing on Gampi (translucent Japanese paper) and affixing the color prints to plywood so that the grain showed through (an effect the artists was using in his work at the time). For Isca Geenfield-Sanders, Renee, along with Don Farnsworth of Magnolia Press,devised a method of putting a digital image directly onto a copper plate without using
 a darkroom.  And, when Radcliffe Bailey returns to the press next year, they hope to use some of the techniques they mastered in creating a recent series of the artist’s monoprints, which combine sewing, chine colle, printing, dying, and collage. Conversely, Bailey is applying the new tools he learned at the press to his studio work. In other words, at Paulson Bott, artists not only benefit from the broad dissemination of images that multiples afford, but they are expected to approach the medium creatively, to explore, with the master printers as guides, the medium’s unique characteristics. Most importantly, as noted in the cases of Gee’s Bend, and Bailey, just two examples among many, printers and artists working collaboratively can arrive at new techniques and methods that expand not only the possibilities of printmaking but of the creative process itself.

Chris Ballantyne, Untitled Berm, Pool, Submerged Rocks, Cliff, 2004

From the beginning Renee and Pam have worked with local artists, recognizing that the San Francisco Bay Area has a vibrant and varied art scene that too often is not adequately acknowledged. They have built strong relationships with such established Bay Area artists as Squeak Carnwath, Christopher Brown, Hung Liu, and Deborah Oropallo, but also support the region’s emerging artists like Kota Ezawa, David Huffman, Shaun O’dell, and Tauba Auerbach, whose careers they have helped foster. The press also collaborates with such prominent, national figures as Martin Puryear, Caio Fonseca, and Kerry James Marshall. There is no house look – something the owners agree is to be avoided. Styles range from Greenfield-Sanders’s charming figurative domestic scenes, to the cartoon realism of Mission School artists Chris Johanson and the late Margaret Kilgallen, to the abstract cosmologies of Ross Bleckner. 

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Blue Suit Bather, 2006

Located in a sun-filled studio and gallery in Berkeley, Paulson Bott Press has established itself as a leading intaglio press and publisher, not just on the West Coast, but nationally. Their prints are now found in major museum collections across the country, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York; the National Gallery and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., among many others.

While we can’t predict what’s to come as Paulson Bott enters the next phase, based on its history we can be confident that it will be both surprising and, somehow, just right.

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