Purveyor of rare books and artworks, LEADAPRON is the destination to uncover titles culture vultures crave and likely never knew existed. Owner Jonathan Brown shares some of the gems in his collection with Installation Magazine.
How did your journey as a collector begin? And how did you arrive at specializing in rare book and art works?
I know it sounds too easy, but the origin of most everything is childhood. I think children have a sort of rage for control and within each family there is a universe of conditions, or a constellation of factors that lead the child and the child has to learn to navigate within the system safely and learn their way. Maybe a quicker answer is that objects can help to alleviate anxiety whether they act as a buffer or a stimulant or provide some sensual release. Objects provide an illusion of order and security or power. As a child I collected everything from books to spears to figurines and I would devolve into those stories or images or make believe with those objects and in a way recreate the world for myself. I would create a world where I was king and nothing could or would hurt me and where I ruled and controlled the narrative. Those objects were love surrogates and safety surrogates and so in a sense I continue these patterns today, only I find it healthy to gradually let go of things and let the real world in. I remember looking at my mother’s Vogue and interior digest magazines when they’d arrive and feeling quite safe as if nothing bad would ever happen between those pages as contrasted with the news and a keen sensitivity to the nature of things. Having spent what feels like forever buried in books and words, where I would have to draw pictures in my mind and construct those words into images I realized that a much more pleasurable and quicker language was the image itself. I also realized that much like when I was a child manipulating objects to understand the world, I could do that in a larger and very gratifying way by curating spaces and communicating through the artwork I choose to display.
How do you discover new pieces? What is the hunt like?
This may sound crazy, but the work comes to me. I sort of intuit what I am currently interested in and it appears. It’s a process of editing. If we see millions of images a day, we have to sift through most of it and find that which appeals to us. Again, this likely goes back to when I would accompany my mother to antique shows and flea markets and sidewalk sales as a small boy… with thousands of things to take in I had to train my eye to find those things I liked or found appealing, much like a monkey gravitates to the color yellow or a squirrel finds a nut.
The hunt? It’s like I am out in the woods looking for food and I see a brook or a fire burning in the distance and I go towards it and gather it. If there was no fire I’d make it and if there was no water I’d hunt for food somewhere else. I get the idea to collect maybe because I’ve seen something, but mainly because if I am attuned to myself the things I like correspondent to my own development and conscious experience. They are the set pieces to decorate and populate the theatre in which I act out this period of my life and then eventually the curtain falls and I prepare another show.
In a time when there is less in print and more digitally produced (Installation Magazine for example!) do you find that the value of books has gone up? Is there is a greater nostalgia or appreciation for these pieces than in the past?
LEADAPRON serves as a gallery space, a platform to exhibit your collection, and a destination for other collectors to visit, explore, and purchase. How do you determine what remains in your personal collection and what is for sale?
Until something sells it is in my collection. If it sells, I probably underpriced it. For the most part, I am a dealer and my job is to make deals. I have temporary collections, such as the Yves Klein one I am building, which is not for sale; however, as we know, in truth most everything is for sale. I guess it’s more a matter of how long I can hold on to it. I have a chair collection and objects on my desk that I will not sell. Other objects which serve as a canvas or still life that accent or enhance other items in the gallery are also not for sale. I rotate art between my home and gallery.
How did you come to collect Yves Klein?
Amongst my recent acquisitions are the blue postage stamps and Monochrome Und Feuer of Yves Klein and the Castelli invite for the 1961 show Le Monochrome. The stamps are painted in International Klein Blue and for their size can fill up an entire room. They have magnetic, almost metaphysical power. The Monochrome Und Feuer consists of three serigraphs: gold, blue and pink, which together are the color of fire. These play on ancestral, aboriginal and remote regions within us that respond to the origins of the world and of humankind. Again, they are familiar but elevated. As taking base metals and through alchemy making gold. I also recently bought a copy of Klein’s Judo book that he signed. His signature is like a strike to a pile of bricks and connects the entire collection with his handprint.
What attracted you to his work?
It’s difficult not to like Yves Klein. I had a similar initial attraction to his work as with James Lee Byars, Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, On Kawara and Piero Manzoni. They are all conceptual artists that also have a chewy, earthen, pulpy immediacy to their work. Unlike Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin or Ellsworth Kelly (all artists I admire), whose work is so pure and flat that it hovers beyond the world, Klein and the others I mentioned seem alive, vibrant and interactive. The power of color and subtlety of form and texture envelop the visual field. Space is carved up by objects that jet out all around us and some like a tree or a nice car exist in a compatible easy way, while other objects are jarring or dynamic or aggressive or passive. These artists are intriguing: I want to enter the work or have some tactile relation with it, even if just mentally and aesthetically.
Do aesthetics always inform your choices?
It’s not just beauty, it transcends that. Beauty can be an average of all that we see. Their best works exalt the phenomenal world and tickle the brain, soothe it and ennoble the human experience. Honestly, I am not interested in the details of Klein’s life or the dates of his shows or whether or not Beuys fell out of an airplane and ate rabbits and was covered in felt. What appeals to me is that which is inscrutable, but familiar, what is opaque but illuminating and ultimately immeasurable.
Is there a particular piece that you could never imagine parting with? Is there a particular piece that you have always wanted but have never been able to find?
No. These are just things and the world is full of them in every variety. Some are indeed rare and scarce and others abundant. I don’t covet anything, but only look forward to what will be next. I suppose that life itself- that’s something to hold on to.
All images © of LEADAPRON