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Events Wed Aug 27 2014
Stare was an independent publication released from 1976 to 1991 by artist, print maker, and teacher Kevin Riordan. The publication collected irreverent, arresting graphic art and writing with equal attention to how it was printed and bound. To celebrate Stare's legacy, Riordan approached Spudnik Press to host the exhibit Recombinant Stare. The show includes issues of the magazine as well as books, posters, press sheets, and photographs. It brings together recent and selected works by some of Stare's contributors, including Wayne Bertola, Mike Brehm, Elroy Christy, Peter Hannan, Jean Riordan and the late Fritz Wolfmeyer. The exhibit will also be the impetus for a new publication, the first in over two decades, curated by Riordan.
In order to fully understand the scope of Stare, I emailed its creator for an interview. Riordan discusses his printing process and the subsequent release parties thrown over the years. He talks of lofts spaces, early punk bands, and DIY printing. In doing so, he also provides a glimpse into the history of Chicago's independent print community. This is a tremendous story of a passionate artist and how he made his publication come to life.
The first issue of Stare (an impolite pictorial publication) was done in 1976, partly for the Offset Productions class at SAIC, which I had just started attending evenings. I had a day job doing printing (and running the mail room) at a small outfit aligned with the American Dental Association. I could do some of it there, but the plates I made didn't handle color very well, so they had a look of faded photocopies. I also had access to a Gebco punch binder, giving it the look of a misguided business report (which I suppose it was). I believe there were 50 copies, with contributions of writing by Frank Keuchman, a rather depraved older gentleman I knew from UIC in the '60s who had once lived across the hall from Samuel Beckett in Paris, and Jim Feast, also from UIC, who had moved to New York, but was and remains a faithful correspondent, later helping to start the Unbearables, the anarchic writing collective. The other contributor was Wayne Bertola, a life-long friend from high school, who also worked on the fringes of printing and could get a hold of great paper, and continues to do very arresting work in collage and other media. Jim and Wayne have been in nearly every issue of Stare.
Once I got started I realized I was having too much fun to stop with just one, and I kept meeting more artists who had interesting work that wasn't being exhibited. I also met several other people doing what we would now call zines, Stab Your Back and the Gabba Gabba Gazette, so I was encouraged in that way. Between issues 1 and 2, though only four or five months apart, punk kind of exploded in Chicago, and elsewhere, and I was intrigued by the quirky color separations you could do with the color Xerox, and run fairly well even on a crappy A. B. Dick press like I had at work. They had a look that I think it's safe to say, were completely different. I was able to get interviews a friend had done with the Ramones and Mink DeVille, which was quite a scoop. Although, I don't think I put together more than a hundred copies. The parties for both of the first two were modest affairs held in my studio apartment.
Later in 1977, I ran #3, the entire thing printed at SAIC, with the cover by Wayne Bertola and a much bigger list of contributors. The party for this was at a now demolished loft on Milwaukee Avenue, secured by having the resident band play, Immune System, sort of the house band for SAIC. No turning back! I got rid of about 200 copies in one night.
I was starting to get tons of mail from all over, usually with a collage or something to print in the next issue, so some of the contributors from that era, I never did meet. I did get to know the redoubtable Bart Plantegna later, through the Unbearables.
Issue #4, the Square issue, was printed at Chicago Books, started by Conrad Gleber, the offset instructor at SAIC. I was told repeatedly that it was NOT "a" Chicago book. Some pages were actually printed by the artists, more scrupulous artisans than I: Miles DeCoster, Rebecca Michaels, Tom Broderick. They were then bound with the rest. The issue was designed to fit in a plastic bag meant for 7" records, bought at Wax Trax, a store that moved here from Denver and made a business of catering to things punk. It was exhibited at Franklin Furnace, the first time anything like that had happened. My roommate at the time was Jim Brinsfield, who became a valued contributor. That party had three bands, in a space on Wacker along the river, and I charged $1 or facsimile thereof.
The next issue was called "Win, Lose Or Draw," and featured some of the most beautiful contributions to date, including new Stare stalwarts Austé, Alex Wald, Jean Patterson (soon to be Riordan), as well as Karl Wirsum and Seymour Rosofsky, and none other than Lee Godie, (who was delighted to be in magazine, although she was probably imagining something more like Interview). This issue was printed in two or three different places and bound with a report cover.
In 1980, in addition to issue #6, I published the first poetry book by Jerome Sala, Spaz Attack, which launched at the Moss Club upstairs of Randolph Street gallery. And I put on the exhibit Mystery at West Hubbard Gallery, along with a printed catalog. I upped the edition of Stare to 500, which proved greater than the demand. It was all printed at my insurance company job, but the press quality was spotty. For the next three years I did one issue per year, printed in part by contributor (and much better pressman) Tom Broderick. Issue #8 and #9 were Bookspace publications, in that grant funds paid for expenses and distribution was organized for the first time. Eight years later I did Issue #10 at the SAIC offset shop, now much improved since the '70s. It appeared the same month that the first webpage went up on the internet. When that blows over, Stare will be back.
The Recombinant Stare exhibit will be accompanied by a print release of the same name (see cover above). The publication, called by Riordan a "sawed-off Stare," is a retrospective including past contributors as well as artists in the exhibit. Work includes an essay by James Yood, writing by Jim Feast, and artwork by Ric Heitzman, Doug Huston, Charlie Thorne, Mary Lou Zelazny and others.
The opening reception will be Saturday, Aug. 30, from 6-9pm at Spudnik Press, 1821 W. Hubbard. The exhibit runs through Sept. 30 in The Annex at Spudnik Press. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5pm, or by appointment.