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The Ballad of Lemon and Crow is a work of fiction by a San Francisco writer, Glenn Todd, who grew up in Texas and whose regional sensibility is keenly felt in this tale about three generations of neighbors in rural Oklahoma. This limited edition is its first publication. The illustrations are by Bruce Conner, a native of Kansas and longtime San Francisco artist, whose distinctive vision won him a large and devoted audience over more than forty years. The artist and author first met in Omaha in 1953, as members of a Midwestern literary and artistic circle that became associated with the Beat Generation.
The Ballad of Lemon and Crow is a tale of three generations of two neighboring families whose lives intertwine during the early and middle years of the twentieth century. Set in Oklahoma, it begins when the state is still the Indian Territory. One family is white, the other black. Old Lady Lemon and Granny Pearl Crow live on the outskirts of a small town along a red road that leads into the sunset. The matriarchs have many children, but by the end of their lives, only two, Mam Lemon and Randall Crow, remain at home to care for their widowed mothers. With its stark emotions and spare recital of events, The Ballad of Lemon and Crow has many ingredients of the folk tale and the fable. The supernatural and the fantastic occur throughout. In the end the spells and enchantments inexorably unfold to bring about a chaos of murder and revenge, after which only the peace of desolation is left. Both houses fall and ghosts wander about the hills and on the red road that leads into the sunset.
The book is octavo in format. The type is English Old Style, composed and cast in Monotype by Mackenzie & Harris, San Francisco. The text paper is Ruysdael, an all-cotton machine-made sheet. The paper for the prints is T. H. Saunders buff loan, an all-cotton mouldmade sheet. The ink-blot drawings in gray beneath the folios and the rebus on the title page were printed from photopolymer plates. Printing of the type and plates was by letterpress. The book is bound in yellow cloth with an ink-blot pattern in black, from a drawing by an anonymous artist that is continuous front to back, interrupted by a black cloth spine. The book is enclosed in a black slipcase. Both book and slipcase have yellow spine labels.
The six images are photogravures from collages of wood engravings. The original collages are ovals, 6.5 by 4.5 inches. The scale of the images for the book is the same as the original collages, while the scale for the extra suite of prints is at 150%, 10 by 7 inches. The paper for the suite is British handmade Millbourne Parchment Substitute, 17.25 by 12.75 inches. In response to Conner's oval collages, and after the book was already printed, Todd wrote a series of six brief prose-poems linking the imagery back to the story. These pieces are printed on the interleaving sheets between the six intaglio prints for the extra suite in portfolio that can be purchased with the book. Portfolio must be purchased with a copy of the book (included in price above).
Signature: Signed by both the author and the artist.
Publisher: Arion Press
Setting himself and his work in critical opposition to mainstream American society, versatile and restlessly inventive artist Bruce Conner was a key part of the San Francisco Beat scene in the late 1950s. He first became known for his assemblages (made between 1957-1964) crafted from an assortment of cast-off materials. He gained international admiration for his surrealistic sculptures and innovative avant-garde films, which he made under the influence of his friend and fellow experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Like his assemblages, his films were collages, which he produced by splicing together found and new footage. Referring to his wide-ranging and experimental output, he claimed: “A lot of things I’ve been involved in I’ve done because nobody else was doing them.”
American, 1933-2008, McPherson, Kansas, based in San Francisco, California
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