Submission Guidelines: N/A
Interview with Julia Klein, Publisher
How did Soberscove Press start?
Soberscove officially started in 2009 with the publication of Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35 (1950). I worked for the publisher George Braziller from 2002-2004, and while I was there a submission came through for a book of writings by Robert Goodnough that included the Artists’ Sessions transcript. Though I later published Goodnough’s other writings on their own, at the time I was only interested in the transcript. It was/is such an accessible series of discussions about the nuts and bolts of art and being an artist—how do you know when a work of art is finished? how does a work of art originate? what is the relationship between artists and the public? These topics are still relevant 65+ years later, and the participants in the discussion were the big names from that era—de Kooning, Newman, Reinhardt, Motherwell, Bourgeois, etc.—making it an important document in American art. Though the transcript is regularly referenced in Ab Ex literature, it wasn’t easy to find as a stand-alone document, and this started my interest in making primary materials accessible. After I moved to Chicago, I worked on the book little by little for about five years, and along the way I came across The Waldorf Panels on Sculpture (1965), which ended up being the second book I published. I loved how the one project effortlessly led to the other, and this got me to start thinking about Soberscove as a real entity that I wanted to keep going.
Tell us a bit about Soberscove. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
If I hadn’t worked for George Braziller, I most likely never would have come across Artists’ Sessions nor considered starting my own press. Braziller published from 1955-2011, and his list is formidable, eclectic and clearly formed by a curious and idiosyncratic mind. He showed me that publishing books can be a way of intellectually making one’s way through the world. The mission of Soberscove is
to make available art-related materials that fill a gap in the literature or are difficult to access (e.g. out-of-print, not in translation, previously unpublished, or limited in circulation). Soberscove also works with artists on the production of artists’ books that resonate with our growing list.
There are a handful of themes that run through Soberscove books: alternative forms of documentation, process, connecting historical materials to the present, alternative pedagogies, and the relationship between “amateurs” and “professionals.” These are not necessary criteria, but they are things that come up repeatedly in our books. I like that a motley history coheres under the Soberscove umbrella: a book on Russian conceptual performance is next to a book on Abstract Expressionism is next to a book about 19th century sculpture. Perhaps most importantly, I want the material that Soberscove publishes to be presented in an accessible way, so that no specialized knowledge is needed going in and so that, hopefully, the books function as entry points into new areas of inquiry. The Artists’ Board Book Series presents artists’ work in the form of the children’s board book (those small, hard books that facilitate early interactions with books and that are resilient objects that can be thrown and chewed). The idea behind the series is to give kids unusual visual experiences early in their lives as lookers/readers, to present art in an alternative format, and to get the work of the artist/authors in front of people who wouldn’t necessarily come across it otherwise.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
This fall was busy! In September, we published The Cardiff Tapes (1972) which presents a transcript documenting the responses of passersby to a public sculpture in Cardiff Wales by Garth Evans. In November we published The Dynamic Library which presents essays on the classification and organization of knowledge. The book was originally published in German by the Sitterwerk, in St. Gallen, Switzerland, which is home to a 25000+ art book library that relies on digital tracking to incorporate subjectivity into its system of organization. It’s a little late but the next book, The Place of Sculpture in Daily Life, will come out in the next couple of months. It presents a series of essays on sculpture by Edmund Gosse from 1895, the themes of which are relevant to contemporary sculpture. In Fall 2016 we’ll publish our second set of Artists’ Board Books; I’m looking forward to announcing the artists for this round in late Feb—these books are going to be really great! There are a bunch of other projects that are in very early stages, among them two books of interviews: one around the the culture and lives of street fair artists, and another about the workers who are involved in restoring the Parthenon.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
It’s a great and growing community! It’s exciting that despite the expense and logistics of producing and selling books, as well as the perpetual issue of distribution, people keep on making them and there is an audience that keeps buying them! I’ve been participating in art book fairs since I began publishing books, and the number of presses (and attendees) has expanded hugely. It’s really nice to see the same faces and to get to know the other publishers and their presses, each of which has its own distinct focus. Seeing their lists develop is exciting to me; so is reading about the successes of other small presses.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Soberscove?
Soberscove doesn’t have a formal submission process, so I can’t say anything about charging reading fees. Printing costs are expensive, especially when you get into color, and that is in part why I generally produce pretty modest books. It is important to me to keep the prices of Soberscove books down; being able to apply for grants as a nonprofit helps as well.