An Affordable Evolution

One day a friend showed Paul Van Kooy a catalogue that included a reproduction of a drawing by Marcel Dzama. It was an epiphany for the Torontonian, who had studied graphic design and retained a passing interest in visual art. He and his partner, Wendy Gomoll, bought a Dzama drawing and the dye was cast. They began to research contemporary art, found out about the Royal Art Lodge, volunteered for Paul Butler and his peripatetic gallery and began buying work. “We’re collectors on a smaller scale,” says Wendy. They were considering opening a gallery when Michael Dumontier suggested they do artist’s editions instead. “We realized we could do as many as we wanted and still keep our regular jobs,” Paul remembers. The first edition was a Royal Art Lodge image in which a neat-looking, black-haired girl designs a poster on which she writes, “Fuck You” in big letters. It was an edition of 75 and it sold out. Since then they have done 14 more editions by a range of contemporary artists, including Dave Dyment, Micah Lexier and Michael Dumontier, Jason McLean, Neil Farber, Kay Rosen and Jonathan Monk.

Paul regards publishing editions as a way of producing work by artists whom they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. That’s how they came to produce a cast bronze by Jon Pylypchuk called Small Log. It was produced in a foundry in California in an edition of 10 and was priced at $800. It, too, sold out, but not before Paul and Wendy secured one for themselves. “We never raise the price even when the numbers get low,” says Wendy, and Paul agrees. “We just want things to be affordable for people.”

Their most recent project is a book called DOTSSSS by Rob Wakshinski, a Winnipeg-based artist and musician. Wakshinski had already done a pair of similar publications in black and white, called DUMDUMS and CHACHACHA. He describes them as “straddling the line between an artist’s book and a zine;” the first was figurative, the second used the line as a subject and DOTSSSS is comprised only of dots. Looking at it induces something close to vertigo. “Most people smile when they see it but they can’t look for long,” says Wakshinski. “That was definitely something I was thinking about when I was making them on the computer because I would almost fall off my chair if I spent too much time looking.”

Finding DOTSSSS was typical of the way Paul + Wendy work. They function within a close network; they are friends with Michael Dumontier, who sent them one of Wakshinski’s earlier books. “We have a few people we would like to work with but there is no general long-term plan,” says Wendy. “Sometimes the decisions are made for us,” Paul says. “We’ll talk to someone and they’ll make a suggestion for a project. In that sense, it’s a natural evolution.” ❚