Matt Keegan

02.04.10

Left: Matt Keegan and Su Barber at the North Drive Press release party at X Initiative. Right: View of NDP 5.


The annual art publication North Drive Press has produced interviews with a wide range of artists, as well as unique multiples––from records and posters to perfume and soap. On the occasion of its closing issue, artist and cofounder Matt Keegan discusses its origin and finale.

WHEN WE STARTED the project in 2003, I was in my second semester of Columbia’s MFA program, and wanted to create a publication that reflected the collective and discursive space of school. North Drive Press tried to translate this intimacy within its first issue, which was designed like a nonthematic, mobile group exhibition.

Lizzy Lee and I founded NDP (its name came from the street that connected the parallel blocks we lived on as kids growing up on Long Island), and as the project’s art director, she suggested a brown vinyl envelope as a cost-effective way to house the inaugural issue’s contents. As with most art projects, all decisions were based on what we could afford (for assembly and future mailings). Also, we didn’t want our publication to have a particular beginning, middle, or end; ideally the “kit,” as we initially called it, could be reconfigured each time it was opened. The sleeve contained ten unbound, legal-size, photocopied interviews and a panel transcription, as well as two large, double-sided, full-color posters and five commissioned multiples, all made in an edition of five hundred.

From its inception, NDP was made for and by artists, and the priority has always been to make it affordable to this intended audience. This first issue retailed for twenty dollars, and subsequent issues have gradually increased to the current price of fifty dollars, while all interviews and texts are available as free downloadable PDFs from the website.

Thanks to a friend who shared his copy of NDP 1, we were offered funding to make a second installment. For NDP 2, I started working with a new art director, Susan Barber, who proposed using a box for the sequel. This would provide the project with a spine to allow for shelving––booksellers were dissuaded by number one’s semi-rigid vinyl casing, and the box provided greater depth for our new focus on funding and publishing more multiples. The format of the publication found its template and beautifully articulated design under Su’s direction.

In reviewing the first issue and preparing to make a second, I knew that I was most excited about the potential of the artist-on-artist interviews and multiples. There seemed to be a void in the distribution channels available to for emerging artists that NDP was committed to presenting––for them to be recorded in their own words and provided with funds to produce editioned artwork. NDP’s initial contributors (although we have featured a wide range of artists) fell below the radar of publications such as Bomb and Parkett.

From NDP 2 on, we provided no editorial parameters, allowing the contributions to define each issue. After completing NDP 3, Su and I—and my editorial collaborator for NDP 3 and 4, Sara Greenberger Rafferty—knew that the project would have to come to a close, as it began to take more time and money to produce. We didn’t want the publication to ever feel burdensome, as all of our own art and design practices began to demand more time and attention.

Su and I decided to end the project with NDP 5 because the number five felt like a point of completion. After we made this decision, the production of this final installment took on a different energy. Assisted by a fantastic crew of interns, we were really excited about it from beginning to end, and our enthusiasm helped fuel an intimacy that had existed in earlier issues.

Many of our contributors have gone on to have success as artists, and NDP’s archive of five issues, more than 150 contributors, and more than fifty interviews has been accessed by students and teachers as points of reference at varying moments in our various contributors’ careers. I’m glad North Drive Press is over, but Su and I have already talked about continuing to work on a future publication with a smaller number of contributors and lower production costs. This yet to be titled project will definitely be informed by NDP, and I look forward to that next permutation.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler