"Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. There is a marvelous peace in not publishing."
~ J. D. Salinger
. . . we concluded that I was going through a depression, based on my fear that I was doomed the rest of my life to be a professor. Not that I hated to teach. But defined. Classified. Serious. That was the worst part, to have to be serious about life.
Jean Paul Sartre
First Museum Exhibition
Additional images from this exhibition can be found on the Archives page.
Chiron Press, New York 1963 to 1968
IN 1965 I DID A PRINT with Elaine de Kooning. I recently found some photographs of her working at my studio, Chiron Press. That's me with the beard. The photos were taken by a photographer friend of mine Eddie Johnson. Eddie was a sculptor and also a film maker. We collaborated on a movie called THE BIRD FILM, which was widely shown back then at places like THE BRIDGE in NYC. Elaine was our friend, and much of the film was shot at her farm in upstate New York. Eddie also took the photographs that appeared in LIFE magazine when Elaine painted her famous, or infamous, portrait of President John F. Kennedy.
Elaine's screen print, which she is looking at on the floor in the photo above, was done from her "bulls" series. It was six colors, and Elaine made all the stencils herself, with my supervision, using the tusche and glue technique. The process was quite time consuming, and few of the artists we worked with were willing to put in the effort required. Most of the shops which came after me avoided this problem by having the artists paint on clear acetate with India ink and then transferred the images photographically. I refused to do this, feeling that artists who worked with "touch" in their paintings should respond to the texture of the silk, which was the medium, not the slick feel of the acetate. I also felt that using photography to transfer the image made the work a kind of reproduction. I tried to keep a certain quality to the prints Chiron Press produced. This became difficult though, as my shop quickly became quite popular, and developed a long waiting list of galleries wanting their artists to do screen prints. Chiron was the first print workshop in New York City devoted exclusively to screen printing, and many people credit me with starting the craze for screen prints that became popular in the mid 1960's.
Looking back at this photograph I can see Chiron Press was in its early stages. There is none of the fancy equipment which I acquired later. I was still printing on a handmade wooden table, without a vacuum frame. I still have this table, although I do not use it for printing. If I turn around from where I am typing this I can touch the table, and still think about some of the now famous prints made on it. The space in the photo was a loft in 76 Jefferson Street. Chiron Press had already moved twice, once from the storefront at 614 East 11th Street where I had printed the first prints, a suite by Alfred Jensen, and then from the half of my loft on the floor above. At that time I still pushed the squeegee myself, as I had not yet hired any printers, and Brice Marden was still learning the craft. Some of the artists that had done prints in my studio "upstairs" included Richard Anuszkiewicz, Helen Frankenthaler, Malcolm Morley, Larry Rivers, Nick Krushenick, Roy Lichtenstein, Trova and several British pop-artists like Alan Jones, Peter Phillips, and Gerald Laing.
I was glad to move the printing shop downstairs when that space became available, and I could afford it, as previously I had to sleep, and eat, in my corner of the studio with prints drying on clotheslines. I didn't have drying racks then, and the only ventilation was the windows, which rarely got opened in the winter. You can see the clotheslines in the back of the photos. Alex Katz was also working on a print at this time.
Chiron Press would move one more time, to 840 Broadway, at the corner of 13th Street. But, the joy had gone out of it for me. Chiron Press had become a business that just ground out prints for the art market. Few of the artists I worked with were actually interested in "printmaking," and I myself, rarely had time to work on my own prints, let alone my paintings. Brice Marden had left me to work for Robert Rauschenberg, I employed industrial printers. My time was spent mostly dealing with the commercial end of the operation. In 1968, I sold Chiron Press and moved to Ithaca, NY to teach at Cornell University.
Elaine de Kooning passed away several years ago. The last time I saw Eddie Johnson he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his hometown, and working as a house painter, but that was in 1976. He said our movie had been shown on public television there several times. However, I hadn't heard from him since then, and only recently learned that he died in December of 2012.
Chiron Press on Artnet, 2013
An article about Chiron Press with images of some of the works produced there by leading artists of the 1960s
HUMAN BEINGS, FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME have never been content with wholly practical modes of expression. Almost as soon as we can walk or run we want to dance; after we can speak we want to sing; when we can record facts we want to write poetry. Sooner or later the functional transforms itself into the aesthetic - becomes play, becomes art.
It was probably inevitable, therefore, that once science conquered the air flight should become an art form.
Alison Lurie from Steve Poleskie, Artflyer, Published by the John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, UK
Two Paintings from the 1960s
Some Screen Prints from the 1960s
ARTIST AND WRITER STEPHEN (STEVE) POLESKIE was born in Pringle, PA in 1938. The son of a high school teacher, Poleskie graduated from Wilkes College in 1959 with a degree in Economics. A self-taught artist, Poleskie had his first one-person show at the Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA in January of 1959, while he was still in college. These large paintings were in the abstract expressionistic style. They can be seen in the photo above.
After graduation Poleskie was employed briefly as an insurance agent and commercial artist near his home in Pennsylvania before moving to Miami where he worked in a screen-printing shop, a skill that he had taught himself from reading a free booklet given out by the Sherwin-Williams paint company. After only three months at this shop, designing and printing billboards, Poleskie left for the Bahamas and Cuba.
His next full-time job was as an art teacher at Gettysburg High School where David Eisenhower was one of his students. During this time he exhibited at the Duo Gallery in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Leaving Gettysburg after only one year, Poleskie traveled to Mexico and California, before returning by way of Canada.
In 1961 Poleskie moved to New York City, where he rented a studio on East 10th Street near Tompkins Square. He enrolled in art classes at the New School and studied for a term with Raphael Soyer. The two became friends, and Soyer painted several paintings of his former student. At the time, Poleskie was doing figurative work. When he had his first one-person show at Morris Gallery, Soyer bought a painting. Morris later sold a large Poleskie to the playwright Lanford Wilson.
Living on 10th Street, which was then the art center of New York, Poleskie became friends with many of the artists and critics of the day including, Elaine and Willem deKooning, Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein, and Louise Nevelson.
In 1963 Poleskie opened a screen-printing studio in a storefront on East 11th Street. This became Chiron Press, the first fine-art screen-printing shop in New York. The business was soon moved to larger quarters at 76 Jefferson Street. During the five years he ran the operation the names of the artists who had prints made at Chiron Press reads like a who’s who of the artists of the 60s and includes such figures as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Alex Katz, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler. One of the printers at Chiron Press was the young artist Brice Marden.
Poleskie’s own prints from this time, rather minimal landscapes, the figures of the earlier works had walked out of the picture, were purchased by numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and the National Collection in Washington.
In 1968, wanting more time to devote to his own art, Poleskie sold Chiron Press and accepted a teaching position at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It was here that he learned to fly, and later developed his Aerial Theater, a unique art form for which he is best known.
In Aerial Theater, Poleskie flew an aerobatic bi-plane, trailing smoke, through a series of maneuvers to create a four-dimensional design in the sky. Musicians and dancers on the ground, and sometime parachutists often accompanied these pieces. This work was very popular in Europe, especially Italy, where Poleskie lived on and off for over three years.
Italian art critic Enrico Crispolti called Aerial Theater the logical extension of Futurism, and the French art critic Pierre Restany, writing in D’ars dubbed it “Planetary Art” on the scale with Christo’s installations. Poleskie’s biplane and drawings for various performances were exhibited at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York in 1978. During this time Poleskie also flew in numerous aerobatic competitions, even winning the Canadian Open Aerobatic Championship.
In 1998, having reached the age of sixty, and feeling his body could no longer take the excessive G forces imposed on it by the aerobatic maneuvers, Poleskie ceased flying altogether, and sold his two airplanes.
Works on paper from his Aerial Theater period are in many public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Gallery in London; the Castlevecchio in Verona, and the Caproni Museun in Trento, Italy; The Kuntsveirn, in Kassel, Germany, and The State Museum in Lodz, Poland.
Poleskie’s work has been exhibited widely. Among the cities he has had his work shown, or done performances, are New York, Boston, Washington D. C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Toledo, Richmond, Williamsburg, San Antonio, and Miami, in the USA; London, Southampton, Loughborough, and the Isle of Wight in the UK; Rome, Milan, Bologna, Brescia, Como, Trento, Turin, Verona, and Palermo in Italy; Munich, Stuttgart, and Kassel, in Germany; Linz in Austria; Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia; Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia; Warsaw, Gdansk, and Lodz, in Poland; Tiblisi in the Republic of Georgia; Vilinus in Lithuania; Freetown in Sierra Leone; Stockholm in Sweden; Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras; Barcelona, Madrid, and Cadaque in Spain; Locarno in Switzerland; Varna in Bulgaria; Hong Kong in China; and Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan.
Since 1998 Poleskie has been devoting himself mainly to writing fiction, and has published five novels and numerous short stories. More recently, since 2004, he has worked with digital photography, and has been in several shows in New York City. Examples of these photographs can be found scattered about this web site.
Additional information on Poleskie can be obtained from Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World, and in a Wikipedia entry linked from the sidebar.
Poleskie in Poland
POLISH RELATIONS, a memoir
click link to read the story of Poleskie's visit to his relations in Lomza, Poland