Colleen Louise Barry, the publisher at Seattle small press Mount Analogue, told me back in April that she dreamed of opening up a space somewhere in the city, a venue as nontraditional and artistic as the titles Mount Analogue publishes. She was reticent to discuss the idea — it seemed too crazy, in a city with booming real estate prices, to imagine — but eventually I coaxed it out of her. She talked about a performance space, a gallery, a small bookshop, and a space that functions as a never-ending salon, “a place where everything can coincide and collide into each other.”
It was hard to prize the idea away from all the caveats that Barry piled around it: such a place could never work. Nobody’s really done anything like that before. Artists can’t afford to live in Seattle anymore, let alone open businesses. Maybe one day after the economy collapses it’ll be a viable idea again.
What a difference 120 days makes: This Thursday as part of Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Artwalk, Barry will be co-presenting the grand opening party for X Y Z Gallery, a “collective arts space” that houses four different arts organizations. Alongside Specialist, a contemporary art gallery, you’ll find the headquarters for three young small presses.
Mount Analogue, of course, is one of the publishers in X Y Z. Barry is single-handedly blurring the line between visual art, performance art, and the literary arts. Her books are bizarre and beautiful objects which tend to find poetry in odd places. (My favorite Mount Analogue title so far is Final Rose, a book-length poem by Hailie Theoharides composed entirely out of subtitled screenshots from The Bachelor.) In her space, Barry will present an installation by Mary Anne Carter titled “Women in the Style of Taco Bell” alongside special performances.
Nearby, you’ll find the headquarters for Gramma Poetry, an ambitious young poetry press that has already become one of the most vital publishers in town. Gramma published Sarah Galvin’s latest (and, so far, greatest) poetry collection Ugly Time, and they most recently published Anastacia-Renée’s (v.). They’ll be presenting a collection of art that has served as book covers for Gramma’s releases.
Last, and probably least-known, of the three is local risograph printer Cold Cube Press. Cold Cube is a publisher and for-hire press that is remaking the aesthetic of what we expect books to be. You can identify a Cold Cube book from twenty paces: their risograph printing process isn’t as harsh as the gaudy processes used by most modern publishers. Each book feels hand-processed: if your typical John Grisham paperback is the publishing equivalent of factory farming, Cold Cube books are free-range and organic. They’ll be showing off their new printing studios throughout the evening.
The opening of X Y Z Gallery is a big moment for the Seattle literary scene. It represents three independent presses joining forces and carving a space in the world for themselves. By making a space for artists and lovers of the literary arts, this could represent the dawning of a new Seattle aesthetic: something young and warm and handmade and beautiful. You’ll want to get in on this.