Small publisher focuses on uncommon books |

Small publisher focuses on uncommon books

Siglio Press is an independent small publisher which is dedicated to publishing “uncommon books at the intersection of art and literature.” And this invocation of a small, unauthorized marvel is an apt description of the titles issued by this remarkable press.

Two recent releases focus on the work of Ray Johnson (1927-1995), a too-little known American artist who was a collagist, painter, poet and one of the originators of mail art.

I remember how, in the late 1960s, the odd little drawings, collages and other selected ephemera started showing up in my mailbox. These odd little offerings were wry commentaries on any number of things and came from the New York Correspondence School—Johnson’s intentionally mis-spelled pun on the dance between sender and recipients who were encouraged to add some thing(s) to it and re-mail it on to someone else.

“Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954-1994,” collects a selection of these mail missives which show how Johnson’s playfully creative mind connected people, places and things that would otherwise remain disparate, separate and dis-connected.

Johnson described his work as dealing in “invisibilities and anonymities,” and this selection of more than 200 pages of his mailings, letters and collages affirms that but also showcases his punning sense of humor. It is simultaneously a portrait of that moment in twentieth century art, and one that has a striking resonance with today’s art making strategies.

Folks who corresponded with Johnson are a who’s who of the American art world of the 1950s and ‘60s: Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins, Joseph Albers, Christo, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Suzi Gablik, Lucy Lippard, Marianne, Moore, Andy Warhol and many others.

“The Paper Snake” is a re-publishing of a long out of print work of Johnson’s , originally published by Something Else Press in 1965. This limited edition (of 1,840 copies). The work, highly influential on subsequent generations of artists, was assembled by Dick Higgins. Johnson describes it as “…writings, rubbings, plays, things that I mailed him or shoved under his door or left in his sink, or whatever over a period of years.” It’s a time capsule of days gone by.

Coming up on Aug. 16 will be the second of the city of Fallon’s free in-the-park concerts. This one will feature Billy Joe and the Dusty 45s who were voted Best Band by readers of the Seattle Weekly.

They’ve developed quite a following for their unique mix of high energy music that blends country twang with jump blues, surf rock and Dixieland. Some rock critic characterized their music as the sound of “rousing horns, sizzling original numbers and genuine talent,” also noting that “If there’s a saloon in hell, the dusty 45s will always have a place to play.” The show promises to be a rollicking good time. More info on the band in the next few weeks.

Kirk Robertson writes about the arts scene. He may be contacted at