Since we have been discussing the 1960s, I think a discussion of my background in printing and graphic arts might be of interest to some; the origins of which lie at the turn of the last century.
My grandfather Harry Moak was working at a union job in the printing business at Blanchard press. He had only emigrated from the Ukraine 10 years before. In 1918, he was suddenly faced with his union going on strike. He said to his co-workers “what means strike?” They told him that they were threatening the company. At which point, he said goodbye, left, and with the backing of a friend, opened his own business, Moak Printing Company. By the 30s, he was printing for museums, including the Met, and galleries, as well as commercial customers.
Around the same time in the teens, Abraham Meisel, my father’s father, opened Capital Paper company to sell fine papers to printers, stationers, and publishers. In the late 50’s, I worked for both companies as both summer and weekend jobs. I developed skills and expertise in all aspects of those fields, including setting type, running presses and garnered knowledge about all types of paper and its uses in the graphic arts.
In 1963, I decided to use this skill set, and I opened my own publishing company—Eminent Publications. I intended to combine my knowledge and interest in the art world with my background in publishing. My first book was a monograph on the painter Nathan Wasserberger. I wrote the essay, and I designed the book. I chose to print on 7 different kinds of paper, putting the charcoal drawings on a grayish textured, sepia drawings on a tan speckled paper, the oils on a semi-gloss, etc. This required the use of a very new “perfect binding” system which I was told only worked on pulp paperbacks; however, I forged ahead, and NONE of the Wasserberger books has failed in 50 years.
My second book was a monologue on Boris Lovet-Lorski. This was a very large book printed in 2 colors and in 5 languages in an edition of 1,000. Half of the copies were sold by Rizzoli and the other half went to Syracuse University to be given to donors and supporters.
However, to really get started in the art world, I decided to directly approach art galleries with the idea that I could produce all of their printed materials, including their catalogs, books, brochures, invitations and posters, and directly coordinate with their artists if need be. Dealers were impressed that a “printer” could know so much about art, its language, and which side was up on an abstract painting. Consequently, I produced major catalogs for Allan Stone, Denise Rene, Hirschl and Adler (where my wife Susan was working), all sorts of material for Kornblee gallery, as well as many as 50 other galleries.
Through Kornblee, I met and worked with Robert Graham and Malcom Morley… important to me for decades thereafter. For Allan Stone, who became one of my best friends in the art world ever, I did several catalogs a year including one on Franz Kline which I even ghost wrote for him. Ultimately, I parlayed all of this into having great access to the inner workings of galleries and into meeting literally hundreds of artists. Over the 10-year course of Eminent Publications, I worked with an enormous number of artists, producing all sorts of graphic art with and for them, from lithographs, artistic statements and books. I even did a small word book for Lawrence Weiner.
For 5 years from 1968 to 1973, I ran Eminent as well as my first gallery at 1022 Madison Avenue. I closed Eminent in 1973 when I opened and focused my efforts on my new gallery in SoHo. BUT because of my experience and involvement with graphic arts and artists, my wife and I did open Editions Lassiter/Meisel (ELM) with Norman Lassiter, where we produced some extraordinary screenprints for Richard Anuszkiewicz, Romare Bearden, Andy Warhol, many of the Photorealists and Paul Jenkins to name just a few.
But the ELM days and stories are material for a future blog…