They say there’s no money in books but tell that to a thirsty 35,000 people who descended on the LA Art Book Fair in 2019. The annual gathering that spans both coasts with a presence also in the print hungry metropolis of New York city, has not only become a hub for publishers of all kinds to sell their latest pieces of pulp, massive perfect bound monographs and limited edition zines but also a place to exchange ideas and see how the worlds or art, fiction and photography are preserved on the printed page.
For anyone who’s been, walking the floor is downright sensory overload. Limited edition oversized volumes are on display from well-known publishers and rare Raymond Pettibon zines taunted a large purchase from behind a glass case of an iconic collector. Carefully curated selections of tattered copies of Slash, the iconic punk rag just begged for just the right buyer and one of our favorite LA publishers, Deadbeat Club was a hive for activity around their latest releases. Unfortunately, Covid canceled this year’s events but art book sales have been through the roof, as stay at home orders are giving people a good excuse to engage with the arts at home.
“Deadbeat Club was built on the idea of making our own community and the pandemic reinforced our collective values. It was super uplifting to see such strong support when we used coffee sales to raise money for frontline PPE and again for social justice. And after releasing a couple new titles through all of this, we see that folks are still turning to photobooks for comfort, inspiration, hope or just good old escapism,” Deadbeat Club’s Clint Woodside adds. The LA publisher together with his wife, Alex have not only been a recognizable pair at the annual LA Art Book Fair and Acid Free here in LA but their coveted titles have asserted a special place in the annals of contemporary photography. The Woodsides have published a handful of zines by LA skater, Ed Templeton and his wife Deanna and also a number of projects by celebrated shooters like street photographer, Cheryl Dunn and celluloid legend, Tobin Yelland.
The interesting thing about publishing is that it takes a certain type of person to understand provenance and that sharing the artistic integrity of someone is damn well worth the risk in this day and age of data driven purchasing decisions. Success is determined by a combination of street knowledge and a gut sense that the value you’re putting on creativity is something actually tangible in the eyes of a patron. How does that happen? It has to be a passion and something you believe in with your whole heart, an ethos that is most central to punk rock and the community that surrounds it.
“I was very entrenched in the DIY scene in Buffalo after I graduated high school,” Clint Woodside remembers when asked how he got his start. For that world, skating and music served as the primary entry points punctuated by vegetarianism, political activism and a declaration of independence that ensconced DIY ideals. Serving as a guitar tech for some of the biggest hardcore bands at the time provided back stage access to a loud and fast world deserving of documenting. It’s here that Woodside first picked up a camera to capture the dynamism of that culture.
This was all happening pre-Internet or at least before social networks were a thing. Strong bonds were not only forged in person but communities existed in vacuums where friends in sister cities knew what you were up to as long as you kept creating. For Woodside, being around bands was a bridge to photography which led to graphic design and a series of projects at a time when New York’s Lower East Side and surrounding boroughs were an epicenter for the last wave of artists who were free to create in relative anonymity.
“9/11 happened and the city turned on a dime,” Woodside remembers during a very chaotic time in New York history. There was a sense of insecurity in the city after the terrorist attacks and he already had friends in Philly he knew through music so he decided to relocate. “I worked at a record store and totally quit doing graphic design. I moved into SPACE 1026 because of punk and booked a lot of the punk and art shows there. I entrenched myself in this world of ‘collective art’,” he adds.
Philly’s Space 1026 wasn’t the only hub incubating talent; in fact, while New York city was rebuilding, its resilience gave rise to a host of art stars that circled a similar orbit as those coming into Woodside’s life. Curator, Jeffrey Deitch was showing a similar cast of characters in his downtown space affirming the artists and performers who had previously passed through Aaron Rose’s Alleged Gallery. All the while Woodside was building relationships and cultural cache through his programming in Philly and it didn’t stop there.
The skate, street, graffiti, punk and DIY scenes were also blowing up in LA and being further legitimized through the blessing of the fine art world. As a result, Rose and Vice’s Patrick O’Dell had since relocated to the City of Angels, a place celebrated for its punk roots and a new generation of disobedients. Woodside had already been visiting and the burgeoning community here made a move sound tempting. “I was coming to see the No Age dudes and other friends. I was driving down Sunset and knew about the Happy Foot / Sad Foot sign. I thought, “If I get the happy foot I’ll move here. If I get the sad foot I’ll go somewhere else and I got the happy foot. I said ‘Fuck! I guess I’m moving to LA!’ he remembers enthusiastically.
After landing in LA, Deitch and Rose already had their seminal ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibition in motion at the MOCA putting generations of iconoclastic art on museum walls. As a serendipitous gesture, a couple involved artists asked Woodside to work on the install and handle the transportation of art to the Los Angeles location. The exhibition was on a mass scale with artists like Steve Powers, Alexis Ross and Barry McGee spending months on recreating vignettes of their street scenes, bodegas and a video repair shop in which to hang dozens of small paintings. “I built this reputation as the guy who just got shit done,” Woodside says in jest about the countless man hours that went into assisting artists on their installations.
‘Art in the Streets’ and living in LA helped Woodside rise to the high water mark, as he was omnipresent like many of the artists he surrounded himself with. He’d become close with the photo power couple, Ed and Deanna Templeton. Both had already garnered a cult following through skateboarding and a number of publishing projects that put them in the same creative canon that Woodside was surrounded by. An unfortunate skating accident shattered Ed’s leg but it provided time to collaborate on a shared passion for photography on the printed page. Through that, Deadbeat Club “organically became a publishing company,” Woodside remembers without mentioning an inferred interconnectedness that everything he’d been doing up until this point led him here.
Much like a punk label, the first projects were a labor of love, photo-centric zines designed by Woodside himself as a way to put new work out into the world. Well-known shooters like Craig Stecyk were shown in print again and newcomers like Nolan Hall were given a platform that extended beyond self-publishing, a concept reserved for the analog-obsessed and usually not a preferred way of sharing your work when today scrolling reigns supreme. However, one of the easiest ways to capture people’s attention is to put out a product and the Deadbeat Club roster of artists quickly grew to represent somewhat of a conspiratorial communion with all volumes seemingly making sense when merchandised together. “It’s very democratic across the board; everyone gets the same deal and it doesn’t matter if you’re well established or if it’s your first thing,” Alex Woodside adds with a sense of affection towards their long list of collaborators. Both run the business with a sense of approachable sentimentality, a welcoming feeling as the art world can feel real stuffy. “The idea is to smash the idea that the word “celebrity” should even be a thing,” Clint interjects further driving home the point.
Today the Woodsides fondly remember the book fairs and a time when thumbing through pages in public spaces is hopefully closer than we think. As the interview meanders they reflect on their iconic Kodak Fotomat, a pop-up film processing shop that was so popular at the LAABF it pushed development times well-beyond their remembered one-hour delivery. As he goes through his titles, Clint unfolds a one-off project by the low-light luminary, Todd Hido to show how the sausage was made behind a zine that doubled as a poster. More stories are shared each with equal enthusiasm as the looming Deadbeat Club slogan ‘There’s No Money in Books’ appears through their house printed on t-shirts and totes. But outside of hard sales numbers you can’t put a dollar amount on what they’re doing. The value to culture is immeasurable, especially at a time when books serve as a time capsule and an ode to the past when things seemed better or for worse. Lucky for us, we can all pass the time towards a more hopeful future with a good book.
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