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The Embodied Press: queer abstraction and the artists’ book

Kala Gallery is excited to present the touring exhibition The Embodied Press: queer abstraction and the artists’ book, curated by Anthea Black.

The artists’ book is a perfect form to experience the pleasures and politics of the handmade. Saturated ink spreading across a page. Layer upon layer. Looking that quickly opens up a range of senses. The Embodied Press features artist’s books and publications by queer and transgender artists, from graphic novels and collage-works to bold experiments with letterpress, screenprinting, video, performance, and risograph. Works from the 1970s to today overlap several successive chapters of LGBTQ+ and queer-feminist political action to expand our readings of contemporary queer culture. Artists in The Embodied Press make important visual and material choices in their use of printing techniques, sequencing, and manipulation or absence of text; they revel in visual abstraction as an antidote to the daily pressure of navigating our identities. What happens when a book “frustrates legibility” or becomes difficult to read? It must be felt. Held. Absorbed and activated. Each work poses questions about difference, intersectionality and power to show that sexual, gender and racial difference cannot be easily understood or legitimized through public visibility alone. These ideas find great resonance in the artists’ book field as it radically expands the ways books can be produced, read, and understood as a form of culture.

Megan Adie is a book artist and professional musician originally from California. Her imprint Aviary Press, and her work is in numerous public and private collections including the New York Public Library, Oxford (England) University Library, the Royal Danish Library, and Stanford University. Megan currently works as principal bass with Concerto Copenhagen, has a print shop in Copenhagen, and organizes EDITION/Basel, a residency program for international artists and printmakers.

Malic Amalya’s films and videos have screened in festivals, museums, and queer bars across the world. Situated between non-linear avant-garde traditions, the oppositional and self-reflective aesthetics of queercore, and an intersectional feminist politic, Amalya works across 16mm and Super 8 film, video, and 35mm slides. Malic Amalya is an Assistant Professor of Experimental Media and Filmmaking at Emerson College in Boston, MA. Before joining Emerson College, Malic was a Professor at the California College of the Arts.

Nadine Bariteau is a French-Canadian interdisciplinary artist whose practice is rooted in printmaking, sculpture, installation and performance video. Her works are studies of permanence and ephemerality, and her immersive book-installation Au Revoir is a meditation on the death of her mother.

Joshua Beckman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a poet, translator, editor and the author of a number of books including The Lives of the Poems and Three Talks, The Inside of an Apple, Some Mechanical Poems to be Read Aloud, Animal Days and Tomaz, a long biographical poem about the early life of Tomaz Salamun. He is editor-in-chief at Wave Books.

Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo is an artist, activist, and educator whose printed multiples, community-based work and installation building invite the viewer to recall and share their own lived narratives, offering power to the creation of a larger dialogue around telling B.I.Q.T.P.O.C. (Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans, People of color) stories. Branfman-Verissimo has exhibited widely and held residencies and fellowships at The University of New Mexico, Black Space Residency, Women’s Studio Workshop and ACRE Residency. They currently live and work on Lenape and Mohican Land, also known as Hudson Valley, NY. Branfman-Verissimo is represented by September Gallery.

Edie Fake references elements of the trans and non-binary body through pattern, color and architectural metaphor, with structures adorned by elements that seem to be both decorative and protective. His work is represented by Western Exhibitions, Chicago, has been exhibited at Berkeley Art Centre, Drawing Center, New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Tatana Kellner’s work encompasses installation, photography, drawing and artists’ books. Tatana is a co-founder of Women’s Studio Workshop (1974) and her work has been featured in over 25 solo exhibitions. Tatana has been awarded a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Visual Studies Workshop, Fundación Valparaiso, Hessisches Landes Museum in Darmstadt, Germany.

Kate Laster is an artist, educator & critical historian. Born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised between Utqiagvik and Juneau, a sense of place is tethered to her practice as a diasporic Jew. She has exhibited throughout the United States, Germany and Japan, and worked collaboratively with Woosh Kinaadeiyí, the SF Poster Syndicate, Palace of Trash, Resolana, and with her collaborator, Steph Kudisch as Hevra Kadisha (חֶבְרָה קַדִישָא).

Emily McVarish is a writer, designer, and book artist who lives and works in San Francisco. Her work has been published by Granary Books and is held by major museums and libraries, including the Getty Research Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo’s Musashino Art University Museum and Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the British Library. She is co-author of Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide ( Prentice Hall) and Professor of Graphic Design at California College of the Arts.

Heidi Neilson is an interdisciplinary artist who works in radio transmissions, sound, prints, books, sculpture, electronics, and video. She is currently co-operating a weather satellite receiving station, Here GOES Radiotelescope, and mining the data collected by the station for a variety of projects. Her work has been exhibited internationally, her artist books and other works are held in over 100 collections, and she lives and works in NYC.

Lyman Piersma (1948-1988) A native of Iowa, Piersma was a diarist, poet, and artist who lived and worked in New York City. He produced Going to Camp: A Meditation About AIDS, Quarantine, Exile and Personal Loss, a collection of poetry, fiction, and images by twenty contributors just a few years before his passing. Lyman held a masters degree in fine art and worked at the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute.

Pati Scobey is a Michigan-based visual artist working in the book form. Pati holds an MFA in Printmaking from University of Wisconsin-Madison and has taught courses and intensive workshops at institutions and organizations across the US. Her honors include the Koopman Distinguished Chair at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, 2011-12, Senior Residency at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, 2006 and Resident Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, 1999.

Miller & Shellabarger are married artist collaborators who explore physicality, duality, time and romantic ideals in their multidisciplinary work. Performance, photography, artists’ books, sculpture and cut paper silhouettes document the rhythms of human relationships, speaking both to common experiences of intimacy and specifics of queer identities. Their work is represented by Western Exhibitions, Chicago.

Stan Shellabarger’s performances, works on paper, prints and artist books employ alternative drawing methods, addressing the body and the Earth to create minimal abstract objects. He takes everyday activities — walking and writing, sometimes breathing — to extreme measures in endurance-based performance work.

Nicholas Shick is a queer, transgender artist and printmaker from Winnipeg, Canada. As a printer at Open Studio and OCAD University, he has worked collaboratively with many artists, and was the production mentor and lead printer for HANDBOOK: Supporting Queer and Trans Students in Art and Design Education.

Clarissa Sligh  is a visual artist, lecturer, and essayist. For over 30 years, Sligh has woven together the cultural, historical, personal and political to explore concepts of memory and transmutation, and perceptions of boundaries and identity: themes rooted in her own experiences. She is co-founder of the pathbreaking touring exhibition Coast to Coast: A Women of Color National Artists’ Project. Clarissa has produced artists’ books with Women’s Studio Workshop, Visual Studies Workshop and Nexus Press.

Curator Biography:
Anthea Black is a Canadian artist based in Toronto and the Bay Area. Black is curator of several exhibitions including SUPER STRING (2006), No Place: Queer Geographies, (2012-14), and PLEASURE CRAFT (2014) and co-editor of The New Politics of the Handmade: Craft, Art and Design (Bloomsbury, 2020) and HANDBOOK: Supporting Queer and Trans Students in Art and Design Education (OCAD University, 2018). Her studio practice addresses queer-feminist archives, collaboration, and artist-publishing, moving between representation and abstraction. Black has recently exhibited in  Looking at the Invisible, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, Loosely Assembled: The HIV Howler Intervention, SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, Montréal, HARDCORE EINDHOVEN, Van Abbe Museum, Netherlands, Beginning with the Seventies: GLUT, Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, Vancouver, and the Independent Curators International touring exhibition Publishing Against the Grain. She is Associate Professor of Printmedia and Graduate Fine Arts at California College of the Arts, San Francisco.

Audio Collaboratorʻs Biography:

Steph Kudisch is a trans gender fluid artist whose work uses mutated intertidal aesthetics and personal storytelling to dwell in in-betweens. They were born with unilateral microtia and aural atresia, and are profoundly deaf in their undeveloped left ear. In recent sound sculptures Kudisch explores the complex implications and impacts of “deformity”. They work as a teaching artist on Ohlone land in the San Francisco Bay Area. Focusing in screenprint, analog + digital sound, and ceramics, Kudisch received their MFA and the Isaac M. Walter Sculpture Prize from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2018.

Kudisch was selected for the San Francisco Center for the Book’s 2022 Small Plates Project cohort, during which they created an edition of screenprinted books titled “to take part in taking apart”, honing in on queer crip collectivism & imagination, overlapping ecotones, and a refusal of climate nihilism.

This exhibition is funded in part by the IFPDA Foundation and by Mary E. Black Gallery, Halifax Canada through a Halifax Regional Arts grant.
The Embodied Press publication, supported by Women’s Studio Workshop’s Research Residency Award, will be released in 2024.