Somewhat as if one were to hammer together a table with painful and methodical technical efficiency, and simultaneously do nothing at all, and not in such a way that people could say: ‘Hammering a table together is nothing to him,’ but rather ‘Hammering a table together is really hammering a table together to him, but at the same time it is nothing,’ whereby certainly the hammering would have become still bolder, still surer, still more real, and if you will, still more senseless. – Franz Kafka on his aim in writing.
New York City is a very expensive and artist-unfriendly place. Oh, I know you might think it is the center of the art universe where you couldn’t throw a copy of Art forum without it hitting some up-and-coming painter or photographer (or having that same thrown magazine become part of someone’s onsite, spontaneous performance art) that maybe true, but the simple fact is that the economics of NYC stifles creative people even when their work is really good or even great. The perception of the place is far different than the reality. There is little correlation between how good your work is and your ability to make a living.
I start this post with my little rant because I have known many people who’s creative talent appear so great to me yet I can’t believe they barely make a living with their work. One of those people that I had gotten to know just in the past three years is the artist Jon Beacham. I met Jon on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn through a friend who owns a bookstore. Jon was selling a smart selection of poetry books (Kenneth Patchen, Lew Welch. Robinson Jeffers, Robert Creeley, Ted Berrigan, Bob Kaufman, d.a. levy and others) alongside some of his own handmade books and broadsides. Bookselling on the street was how Jon was eking out a living but, unknown to me at that first meeting, he is a highly skilled letterpress printer and designer; he makes short films; he photographs; and he has a remarkable instinct for making collage work. A recent catalog of some of his work from the last five years has just been published by Boo-Hooray gallery called The Brother in Elysium: Artwork and Publications by Jon Beacham, 2008-2013.
Perhaps in this computer driven world of production, Beacham is working in a field most have seen as replaceable, but for those where the evidence of the hand in the labor is important – the feel of the impression left by type laid to paper, the tactility of materials, the sense of time and age on material (and not a push-button process) – his work will certainly strike a chord.
Under his imprint, The Brother in Elysium, Beacham publishes a variety of publications, portfolios, broadsides and even a series of facsimile reprints of long out of print works by d.a. levy and Ed Sanders. By “publishing,” I mean, he has set the type on the Vandercook press, fed the sheets, and often bound the results himself which he then, in limited but extremely affordable editions, sells himself. Most of his editions sell between $30 and $50 dollars.
Beacham’s work seamlessly joins poetics with the aesthetic of early American architecture and landscape, and thoughtfully chosen materials. The publications have a clear understanding of form, focusing on space, typographical choices and the placement of type on the page.
The catalog brings together collage works, letter press printed ephemera, film stills and mixed media pieces and was published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Boo-Hooray gallery in NYC that ran in April 2013.
The Brother In Elysium: Artwork and Publications by Jon Beacham 2008-2013
Foreword by Joshua Beckman
Edition of 500
Printed and bound in the U.S.A.