The Historic New Orleans collection recently unveiled a new exhibition, “Alternative Imprints: Jon Webb, Gypsy Lou, and the Hand-Sewn World of the Loujon Press,” dedicated to the life and work of the progenitors of the esteemed 1960s New Orleans publishing project. The exhibition, which consists largely of materials donated to the HNOC by the Webbs’ friend Edwin Blair, will be on display until November 16. A special event featuring Blair, along with art collector JoAnn Clevenger and poet Neeli Cherkovski, will take place from 2 -4 p.m. on Saturday, September 7 at the HNOC’s Williams Research Center (410 Chartres St.).
Loujon Press, subject of an excellent biography by Jeff Weddle, was a small-press, mom-and-pop publisher that operated out of the French Quarter, producing four issues of The Outsider magazine as well as two books each by Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller. The Outsider featured work by writers such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Langston Hughes, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, LeRoi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka), and William S. Burroughs.
The exhibition explores the Webbs’ lives and work through objects from Blair’s collection as well as paintings by Noel Rockmore, a friend of the Webbs’ whose paintings accompanied Bukowski’s poems in Crucifix in a Deathhand, and photographs by the Webbs’ friend Johnny Donnels. The display also includes copies of each title in Loujon’s small but celebrated catalogue, while illuminating the Webbs’ relationships with other self-proclaimed outsiders—the people, the places, and the environment that inspired the creation of Loujon Press.
For more information about Loujon Press, particularly regarding the fine craftsmanship with which each Loujon book was created, read the 2011 two-part series by Room 220 editor Nathan C. Martin at Pelican Bomb, “The Artistry of Loujon Press: Triumphs and Shortcomings”:
An instructive—if perhaps cynical—point of entry into the aesthetics of Loujon’s publications is a consideration of the conceptual contradictions between the two Bukowski books and their texts. The binding, paper, type, format, art, and design are all immaculate, but the ways in which the books, as objects, interact oddly with Bukowski’s poetry illustrate both the Webbs’ singular vision and the compromises they made to realize it. In his introduction to It Catches My Heart in its Hands, Shreveport native and literary scholar John Corrington extols the virtues of the plain language with which Bukowski constructs his verse. He writes, “Bukowski does not have a ‘formal’ and an ‘informal’ style; he uses only that single and singular idiom that somehow shames the strained and self-conscious efforts of contemporary academic baroques.” This statement aligns with much of the hoopla lathered on the Beat poets, with whom Bukowski is tangentially grouped, in that theirs was a language of the people, complete with stutters and slurs, rather than that of the classical elite. “Subject aside,” Corrington continues, “this is the spoken voice nailed to paper.”
The Webbs appreciated these very aspects of Bukowski’s poetry, but rather than couching it in a book that complemented his grizzled everyman’s dialect—perhaps a mimeographed pamphlet, the medium of choice for Fluxus book artists publishing around the same time—Jon and Lou presented it in a book with so many ornate and colorful doodads that Jon later referred to its style as a “bunch-of-Indians-whooping” (indeed, the multi-colored, stepped introductory pages slightly resemble a feathered headdress with their rough-cut edges).
Read the full article at Pelican Bomb.