September 2013

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1995 EmmettReceiptDetail EmmettDetail

Emmett Ramstad
1995, 2013
Cash register receipt rolls from Giovanni’s Room bookstore, Philadelphia
Collection of The John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives,
William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia

“My Aunt Mary told me about Giovanni’s Room bookstore when I said I was moving to Philly. She used to buy lesbian crime novels by mail order from them before Amazon Bookstore (not the online store, but the real lesbian bookstore in Minneapolis, named after strong, one breasted women). When I arrived in Philly, I visited Giovanni’s Room and Skip, a long-time employee, remembered Aunt Mary’s name from the mail order days – days of newsletters with book prices, a phone number you could call and books slipped into brown envelopes for shipping. This is the story I think of when I look at the many boxes of ephemera that Giovanni’s Room donated to The John J. Wilcox Jr. archive. When I asked Ed, Giovanni’s Room owner, about exhibiting the cash register receipt rolls, he was worried they would reveal the identity of the patrons- exposing secret purchases in the form of abbreviated titles of porn mags and disappointing gay films that are either too sweet or too brutal. He consented to the exhibition when I assured him there are no names on the receipts, just numbers, abridged titles, and events listings. These documents remind me of clusters of bodies and people with nerdish impulses, like a beautiful pre-internet community finding themselves; they represent a collection of book and magazine buyers and people who bought rainbow stickers for their cars. They also remind me of the hours I spent in the bookstore pouring over a filthy Sam Steward book I wanted but was gone by the time payday came around, and of cramming into a the attic like upstairs for queer readings. And while I was writing this, Ed announced retirement and Giovanni’s Room might have to close its doors. Is the era of gay bookstores now over? Who will take down Aunt Mary’s name and address when she buys her lesbian crime novels?”

Emmett Ramstad

Italian language guides
Collection of Rachel D’Agostino

Bakery business cards
Collection of Erika Piola

Rachel D’Agostino and Erika Piola are curators at the Library Company of Philadelphia. They organized that institution’s exhibition Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home. Both have lent from their personal collections for our exhibition.

“As an Italian-American from a family that arrived in this country both during the height of Italian immigration and also many decades earlier, I have always had an interest in Italian-American history and culture, including that of Italian-Americans now many generations removed from their Italian relations. I am drawn to Italian-language instruction because it is a way that many Italian-Americans, no longer learning the language at home, try to reconnect with their roots while also distinguishing themselves from ‘Medigans.’”

Rachel D’Agostino

“I never intended to start a collection of bakery business cards. It is somewhat of an unintentional collection; is small; and does not represent every bakery I have visited. The cards “live” on my fridge under magnets as a reminder of bakeries I have been to, need to visit again, and in some instances, just to remember the address for those future visits.”

Erika Piola


It’s with great excitement that we announce the opening of Ephemeral Sprawl, an exhibition of contemporary printed ephemera co-curated by The Print Center and the collaborative art blog and occasional arts producer, The exhibition will be presented in two parts, first, September 13 – November 23, 2013, with an opening reception this Thursday, September 12th from 6:00-8:00pm, with a brief gallery talk by Amze Emmons of Printeresting and John Caperton, Jensen Bryan Curator, The Print Center, at 5:30pm (please come – all are welcome!), and the second part will open in April of 2014.

Ephemeral Sprawl is..well, a sprawling cultural and creative survey of the way printed ephemera has woven itself invisibly into our understanding of art and culture. The exhibition features a range of different types of printed material, including, historically significant objects, and selections from the ephemera collections of noted critics, curators, and institutional archives, all of which is put in conversation with work by contemporary artists. By placing historical, popular and creative works in close proximity, we hope to deepen the viewer’s understanding of how value is generated and accrued within a cultural context.

And we should say that the structure of the show is designed to be very modular and fluid – specifically, some of the work on display will rotate out over time, allowing for new contextual relationships to exist every few weeks. Beyond just rewarding the repeat visitors, we hope felt this model served two purposes, it allows us to show a much larger show in a much smaller space, and this model most closely resembles the way ephemeral printed material moves through our consciousness.

Many aspects of this exhibition were inspired by a series of publications (L’Ymagier and Perhinderion) edited by Alfred Jarry (the author of the 1896 play Ubu Roi and who is considered by many to be a progenitor of the modern avant-garde) that sought to put populist mass produced printed ephemera in conversation with works of historical significance, and the leading graphic work of his day (read more about these important and striking works here).

Ephemeral Sprawl is organized in concert with the venerable Library Company of Philadelphia’s exhibition Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home, and will coincide with the Ephemera Society of America’s conference, also in Philadelphia, on the 19th and 20th of this month.

For those of you unfamiliar, is edited by a collaborative team made up of artists, Amze Emmons, R. L. Tillman, and Jason Urban. Since 2008, Printeresting has been known as “The thinking person’s favorite resource for interesting print miscellany.” The blog has become a major proponent for innovative contemporary printmaking and a leading voice in the international printmaking community. Beyond Printeresting’s online presence, they are “real world” art producers; producing events, exhibitions and projects that embody and complement the written work on the site. They see this as an obvious extension of their arts writing allowing them to utilize their collective skills as artists, managers and producers. Like the site itself, these endeavors also serve to locate, curate, showcase, contextualize, model and often distribute, artwork that is in conversation with print and material culture. Their exhibitions include: Rum Riot Press, 2012, Space Gallery, Portland, ME; Past/Present, 2011, St. Louis Artist’s Guild, St. Louis, MO; 4×4, 2010, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA; Copy Jam, 2010,  Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Philadelphia, PA; Copy Jam 2: Text Edition, 2010, Columbia College, Center for the Book, Chicago, IL and One Every Day, 2009, EFA Project Space, New York, NY.