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Rakish Light — Make-Readies

Typically relegated to the refuse pile at a print shop, “make-readies” are the scrap sheets sent through a printing press to get the machine running cleanly and to register images. To avoid wasting too much paper, make-ready sheets are re-used and re-run through the press multiple times. The make-readies reproduced here are all from Real Print, a project of artist-designed posters organized by Rakish Light in advance of January 20, 2017.

Rakish Light is a small press that started in Los Angeles in Spring 2016; or rather, we, Rakish Light, spent much of 2016 in our garage resuscitating an offset lithographic printing press, trying to gain control over a near-obsolete means of production. In the early days of 2017, as the US presidential election’s surprise results were about to be actualized, we knew a lot of people felt the need to do something. And our press could print 6,000 sheets an hour—nothing compared to the rapidity of internet clicks, but something “real.”

We contacted artist friends by email on January 4: “As many of you know, last March we bought
an old offset press that we’ve been restoring and learning to use under the name Rakish Light. In the same time period, the world went wrong. Early on, we joked that our reinvented, almost obsolete form of analog reproduction might be a necessary tool in dark times. Now we’re cringing at those jokes, but glad to have the press. We have a high-capacity means of production, and we would like to ask you to participate in a last-minute collaborative project to express the combination of urgency, anxiety, and ultimately hope for renewed commitment born of the present moment.”

We asked contributors for designs scaled at 9 by 12 inches, horizontally or vertically oriented, that could be printed using no more than two plates, with a choice of one color per plate (red, yellow, blue, green, purple, or fluorescent orange) plus the white of the page. We needed the designs within a week, and promised each contributor a hundred copies of their print by January 19, to distribute as they wished with the understanding that the back of each print would be marked “not for sale.” Many responded, glad to get something out quick. We moved the press itself to Valentine’s, a project space in Cypress Park, and invited the contributors to stop by to take part in the printing process. The amount of labor required to get the project done was daunting, but we were motivated by something that felt like panic.

In the days after the inauguration, we sorted, less energetically, through piles of make-readies, palimpsests of the 51 contributions to Real Print. What is reproduced here is salvaged and sorted trash; revived Dada, barely recognizable non-sense. We submitted the make-readies gathered here to X-TRA in March 2017, well aware that they might induce nostalgia by the time they hit newsstands in the fall.

Brian O’Connell and Deirdre O’Dwyer, Rakish Light

Real Print Contributors: Kristin Beinner James, Pall Björnsson, Todd Bourret, Kate Brown, Lola Bunting, Amina Cain, Tuni Chatterji, Mario Correa, Barb Choit, Matt Connolly, Dana DeGiulio, Kate Dollenmayer, Chris Fallon, Luke Fischbeck, Corey Fogel, Victoria Fu, Paul Gellman, Jeff Gibson, Liz Glynn, Jason Gouliard, Michelle Grabner, Katie Grinnan, Melissa Guerro, Margaret Honda, Violet Hopkins, Claire Iltis, Christopher James, Shaun Johnson, David Karwan, Chris Kasper, Olga Koumoundouros, Zachary Leener, Haven Lin-Kirk, Jen Liu, Caitlin Lonegan, Elizabeth Lopez, Thea Lorentzen, Suzanne McClelland, Susan Morris, Ragen Moss, Laurie Nye, Brian O’Connell, Deirdre O’Dwyer, Philip Ording, Matt Rich, Heather Parlato, Amara Ravva, Kay Rosen, Jenny Salomon, Aram Saroyan, Jonathan Silberman, Vivian Sming, Cal Tabuene-Frolli, Dan Torop, J. Parker Valentine, and Mark Verabioff