Since I’m basically a total giddy fan girl when it comes to Clare Kelly and mostly everything she does, from her photography to her writing (she’s even written for Cultist as a result of my begging), it might behoove me not to blither on adoringly in this intro about her newest venture, the publishing house Hesse Press which she started with her partner John Wiese and just launched with books from Cali Thornhill DeWitt and Kelly herself. Instead I’ll just skip to the actual interview, but know when you read this that I sat here typing it with hearts in my eyes.
What initially made you want to start your own book press?
I want to support the hard-working artists I know in Los Angeles, by documenting their work, and getting it out to an international audience.
Tell me about these first two (three?) releases. Why did you choose these particular ones as your introduction into the world?
John Wiese and I came up with a design template for the monographs, so they will have similarities in scope no matter which artists we work with, to create a kind of platform from which to view different artist’s worlds. The goal of the monographs is to introduce contemporary LA artists to a broader public. We wanted there to be two books released jointly so that there could be some relationship between the two works: it could be that one artist is “mid-career” and the other is “emerging”, or it could just be a visual or aesthetic relationship. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops.
John is an amazing designer and good friend, and I’m really happy to have him as a partner for the project. Working together we created the basics of the press over the last six months. We are already working on the next two publications, which will come out in January, in time for the LA Art Book Fair at MOCA Geffen. After that, we hope to do another two releases in fall 2015.
Cali Thornhill DeWitt was a natural choice for the first in the series—his studio is down the hall from mine, he loves LA, he is very supportive and prolific and involved in all different kinds of creative work, and the way I feel about him is that he’s the kind of person who believes in other people before they believe in themselves.
I met him when I was 18 or 19, and he was always really supportive and kind about my photographic work, which really meant a lot to me. It’s really cool and an honor to have my own book come out next to his. I wasn’t planning on doing a book of my own work, but another artist I was working with unfortunately had to drop out the month before we started designing. But I’m happy with my own book. It is strange to see seven years of images of your personal life in that form.
Alix Vollum‘s Paradise Rendezvous is just so amazing that I had to publish it. Alix grew up in Portland and I met her about two years ago when she first moved to LA. I feel like this work is a great representation of being dropped into the LA vortex. It’s a 12 page newsprint spread where she redesigned all the medical marijuana ads from the back of the LA Weekly to have her poetry inside them. It’s truly insane to read, and super beautiful in a jarring way.
What do you think is lacking in the LA art scene in general? What are the best parts of it?
I’m 26 and I have basically only lived in LA as an adult, so I lack perspective… but I think artist’s book’s are a really great way to more fully enter into an artist’s world, perhaps sometimes a better way than a show or an opening. I’m not much of a social drinker or drug user so sometimes those events are harder for me, because I don’t get to look at the art as much as worry about the social politics and anxiety of being around other people. I really did used to read during every recess, and being an anti-social kid sticks with you, I think.
The best parts of the LA arts scene are the parts where people are mutually supportive and I feel like I don’t need to go to grad school, because if I need to learn how to color correct a video or something, I can buy my friend lunch and she’ll teach me. Getting to work and create beautiful things with friends while having a goofy camaraderie is amazing.
Do you ever plan on releasing literary work?
That’s a good question! I think at this point, the press is so young, I don’t want to limit it, but I can’t over-exert myself either. I want everything we put out to be high-caliber, but there are no genre limitations to that. I love good writing. More and more, good writing is an essential component of contemporary art. I am really enjoying all the written pamphlets semiotext(e) put out for the Whitney biennial, for example.
Where do you see Hesse Press going in the near and far future?
I would love it to be an organization that an artist is proud and happy to work with. That’s really my goal—an experience that feels supportive and creates something beautiful.
If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss the Hesse Press launch at Family Books tonight, October 9th, at 7:30pm. All three releases will be available for sale and there will be an after-party at Kibbitz Room with a live performance by Dunes.