Archive for March, 2009

The Boss: POLAROID #4

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


De Pirro the Boss

The sequel to Get Serious, The Boss was also created as an identification photo at the Sherman Studio Art Center. Ian saved this one as well. Speaking of Sherman studios, I came this close to tossing a roadkill skunk into one of the glass furnaces over there one night. This photo features a Delille Oxygen welding cap, in effect!

Neumann Victory Italicized

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


The Neumann Leathers Tenants Association (NLTA) has won their battle for the future of the Neumann studio building complex. I should say, the NLTA is happy with the results of the Hoboken Zoning Board’s unanimous decision to deny approval to the Trammel Crowe Company’s proposal to develop a colossal condominium project on the Neumann site.  I should say, portions of the NLTA that are most represented by the group of small businesses that occupy leased space in the Neumann Leathers Company buildings are satisfied that they will continue to be able to have inexpensive space in a prime location without any kind of oversight or inspections of their premises that would normally be expected in a leased commercial space in such a competitive and densely populated market. I should add, many of the artists that are primary lease holders or sublease holders are also pleased that they can continue to provide, and in the latter case, work in, squalid studio spaces without fire code compliant walls or doors. They can continue to incorrectly and even illegally dispose of volatile organic compounds. I must assume that the building’s owners must be disappointed to not be rid of their toxic and poorly maintained structures, their absolutely decrepit parking lot, and their thousands of gallons of underground fuel oil.

The most recent mass email message from the NLTA proposes a new development project. Should I say another development project? The model and drawings have not been revealed, but one can assume that it will be more focused on supporting the existing Neumann community. I should say, one can assume that it will be more focused on providing space for the companies that can afford renovated loft space in a prime property in Hoboken. Perhaps, one should assume, that music rehearsal space and perhaps even sculpture studios may be considered too noisy for such a development. I am quite certain that commercial space will be available to those who can afford it, but how loud can I be?

Originally, the artists were the face of the NLTA, but it was plain to see then, and it is certainly the case now, that the small business contingent is the dominant voice. I should say, business contingent, if I am to include some of the multi-million dollar operations that are housed in some of the buildings on the property, for they are certainly not small. 

I suppose that now is a time to begin thinking about the future of the buildings on the property. I am willing to participate in a remodel of the property, but I fear that my small company won’t be able to absorb the additional costs associated with such a massive project even if it is a co-op, which has not been specified at this time. Given that the mission of Project Studios is to provide the most inexpensive studio spaces possible, the company is not posting record profits that could capitalize a major renovation.

I am happy to keep the Project Studios spaces on the third floor of Neumann Building H, and I will keep those studios available as long as possible. I estimate that it could be as short as one year, or as long as five, barring any arson or other maneuver of last resort from a would-be developer. I am currently seeking additional studio space for myself and for the greater Project Studios LLC company space for music and visual arts in another building or buildings in the immediate area.


DIY Etching Press: From Memory

Sunday, March 29th, 2009


The new (used) etching press has arrived. Remo and I unloaded it about a week ago and I finally got around to really cleaning it up and setting the micro-gauges so that I  can actually use it. I still need to level it, but the floor is so uneven, I will probably just put blocks under the feet. I apologize for the photos, I took them with my iPhone under fluorescent lights. I did all this setup from memory, and the last time I put a hand on a press was almost 10 years ago. I have my Dad’s awesome printmaking book, but I have not taken it out yet. The press itself is a joint venture between Kivetz, Ian Williams, and myself. Here is a little description of what I did to fire it up.

Step one: Get yourself an etching press. I guess you could build one, but it might be faster to buy one. To build one you are going to need a GTAW machine, Engine Lathe, and Milling Machine. You can probably buy most of the bearings pretty easily, but I digress. I bought a used one from a guy up in Teaneck. It was in his garage, just about completely walled in with junk. It was a pretty serious job extracting it. Remo had a good time because he appreciates humorous situations. We loaded it on my trailer, took it down the turnpike, and then rolled it right into the shop on a pallet jack. This press has a 28″ x 48″ bed. Not too shabby, but the real nice thing about this press is the size of the rollers. It also has a gear reduction crank case and no captain’s wheel. I am pretty sure I can make a big wheel for it, but I am not sure if I can secure it without removing the crank case. I would like to keep them both if possible. 

Martek 28\

Step 2: Polish that old hulk. I cleaned up all of the visible metal on the press with non-woven abrasives and steel wool. I removed some pieces to better clean them, but I didn’t go crazy. W-D 40 all around. The blankets are from the previous owner, and they are pretty moth-eaten and there is no sizing catcher. Add blankets to the shopping list. Also, the Martek label fell off.

Step 3: Zero out the press by bottoming out the top roller against the bed. Once you hit the bed, take up the slack in the threads so that all the play is out, but the roller is not lifted. I am talking about maybe a half turn or less. You can now move your gauges to the zero mark and lock them down.

Step 4: Cut some grid paper and cover that newly shined up bed. You could be all 17th century and leave the bed exposed, but let’s make it easy and register everything on a nice sheet of 1/8″ grid.

Lexan Sheet on Martek Press Bed

Step 5: Get a sheet of Lexan and cut it to the measurements of the bed. Cover the grid paper to keep your grid and your final print media clean. I just used some clear packing tape to secure it to each end of the bed. Note: Lexan is not all that easy to work with. You are also going to have to be aware that you just added thickness to the bed, so your zero mark is not zero any longer- not that it matters.

Step 6: Run a few test prints to get your pressure set. I don’t have a sizing catcher, and the pusher blanket is in pretty bad shape, but I was able to get a print. The main issue is that the studio is a sculpture shop, and I don’t have everything for proper printmaking yet. I was not able to soak my paper, so I just spritzed it and blotted it. Apparently not enough sizing was removed and the print was pretty light with a good amount of ink left on the plate. I am pretty sure my pressure was good, but it probably could have been a bit higher. Having proper blankets would have probably helped also, but I am pretty sure this was a paper issue. I was happy just to smell the ink again.

Here is the print. Again, lousy iPhone image, but you get the idea. The plate is a “full sized” Revere zinc plate that has been exposed to the elements for about 10 years or more. It had cardboard against it at one time, so it etched naturally. I am working the image very slightly, adding dry-point marks. Eventually, this will become the substrate for an image of the American Bantam rooster, or maybe not. I am planning some Bantam prints no matter what. I just never know what any plate is going to look like when it is done.

First Dry-Point Print from the Martek Press

Epic Fail: May 18, 2008

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Periodically, events that occur outside the studio can impact your art practice substantially, or so the story usually goes. This changed my life, that really opened my eyes to new possibilities, and so forth. I am pretty sure that my artistic tendencies represent a set of core values that I have had since I was very young, so events don’t seem to influence my practice any radical way. Drama, in other words, has no place. It is all rather matter of fact.

Then I received the call. The first thing that entered into my mind after hanging up the phone was that I had made the wrong decision. The studio’s business model was dangerous and could easily be destroyed by a single event. There was too much risk. I always knew that a fire in the building like the one I experienced in the former Union Tools building studio in Columbus would spell the end of a studio space, but I never considered a stranger’s suicide as a possibility.

I still know very sparse details, and as requested by those close to the individual, I won’t disclose personal information because it is not relevant. The story as I understand it follows. A member of one of the bands using the rehearsal studio that connects to the Project Studios main space was going through some kind of emotional difficulty and decided that the only option remaining for him was suicide. He was found hanging there the following morning by a band that had booked practice time. They called Chris Gibson and the police, and that ended it. Astoundingly, the band went ahead with their rehearsal once the coroner left the scene.

By the time I received that call from local band guru Chris Gibson, everything was all wrapped up. The body was gone. The police had taped off the studio, photographed the scene, and finished their work. They left behind only two scraps of yellow police line tape. It was somehow similar to that scene in American Psycho when Patrick Bateman returns to his old apartment only to find that everything was normal and everything that happened there was erased by his former landlord to avoid damaging the property’s value. Then I started thinking about how the timeline played out. I invented a narrative. “I just can’t spend another night on a studio couch,” he must have thought. I can imagine just looking at a piece-of-shit couch and thinking, “That’s it, fuck it.”

At the time, my main studio was still up on the third floor, and basically, every other studio space opened into mine. I never had any theft issues, and I don’t mind the artists who lease from me using my tools, so I didn’t build walls until I moved downstairs. For the purposes of this story, the only thing you really need to understand is that the rehearsal space in question has a door that opens directly into my studio with nothing more than an implied barrier between my studio and a common walkway.

Artists are selfish by nature, and paradoxically want to please others and maybe even serve the greater good, but when I think about this event, I admit that I lean toward the selfish, or at least, consider myself within the invented narrative even though I have no real part in it. The thing that still drives me crazy is that this guy had to walk right past a pretty substantial sculpture (Plaster Neumann) to get into the space where he killed himself. I can’t help but think that if the work was better, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Would you still do it if you had to walk past Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul? Would some art that was actually good give you pause enough to not kill yourself five minutes later? This is the selfish artist’s thought patterns.

In the end, this has had no influence on my work in any way. I think about it sometimes, and wonder how this guy’s friends let him get to that point, but in the end, it is was his decision. I am annoyed that he chose to do it within my studio, but I guess it is difficult to think through how it will affect other people once you have crossed that line. I wonder if a better sculpture could have done some good in this situation. I doubt it, but it is an interesting proposition.

Newkirk Bronze

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009












After moving to the ground floor (temporary?) studio in Neumann, I started going through boxes of junk that I keep dragging with me every time I move. One box contained some old photos including some good ones from my final year at Indiana University. I have been thinking about IU these past few weeks because I have been discussing etching presses with Ed Bernstein. That is another story that will hopefully be told soon. I am negotiating a price for a Charles Brand clone that is for sale up in North Jersey.

This photo shows me hammering a Dale Newkirk bronze that we melted down for a pour. Whenever you get the chance to smash art made by the guy who is the chair of your thesis committe, say yes, and have one of your boys snap a picture. Look how mad decently I know how to wield destructive force.