6 Decades Books and Boo-Hooray are pleased to announce a letterpress project and exhibition with Jason Polan entitled A Slow Walk. The exhibit opened Friday, October 5th, 2012, with a reception from 6 to 8 pm and was on view seven days a week through November 5th. The letterpress portfolio consists of ten prints, and is published in an edition of 40 copies. The exhibit also featured a selection of larger drawings and other works, some never before exhibited, alongside a near-comprehensive collection of artist books and ‘zines. Polan has recently passed the century mark in terms of publications and most of these 100+ books were on display.
To create A Slow Walk, Polan spent ten days walking the length of Canal Street from the Hudson River to the East River, and drew things that caught his eye along the way. Each day that Polan spent walking Canal Street is represented by a single letterpress page in the portfolio. The medium provides a facsimile of the drawings, and effectively creates the sense of looking at the original work. One element per page is highlighted with a pop of color, the “We Buy Gold” sign in gold, the East River in blue, etc. Canal Street is possibly the most chaotic stretch in all of New York, maybe even in all of North America. Most locals try to avoid navigating the street at all costs, or at the very least, prefer to be staring at their smartphones instead of at the chaotic assembly of tourists, cheap merchandise, and sidewalk vendors clogging the sidewalks. Polan ‘s response to this glut of visual information is not avoidance, but engagement– to create renderings that are as economic in line as they are uncanny at evoking a specific time or place.
Polan’s style is deliberately simple and has reportorial aspects. His drawings however, are not a means to an end, but rather a tool that the artist uses to look at and engage with the world around him. In this way, A Slow Walk is situated alongside other projects by the artist that include Every Piece of Art in the Museum of Modern Art, Every Person in New York and his ongoing series for The New York Times, Things I Saw. The purpose of all of these insurmountable projects is not to realize any sort of completion, but rather to continuously engage with and document the daily details of life that go unseen by others. Polan draws in a style that detractors incorrectly identify as childlike naïveté; “Any child old enough to hold a pencil could do this” is a common refrain that misses the point of his larger goal. In reality, Polan ‘s unique visual language is tremendously effective at conveying a moment in time in just a few pen strokes. The confidence that is needed to complete such simple renderings in difficult working conditions- Polan draws in real time as the moment unfolds, often standing up, with the distractions of the world continuing around him- makes it all seem easy. His work conveys moments so effectively and consistently that one is forced to consider that perhaps his visual language consists of much more than what initially meets the eye.