In the early 1980s, I was a roving, punk clubbing twenty-something and a nascent print salesman for the Hennegan Company with a sidelong interest in art , though with little knowledge of it. Through a friend, the wonderful graphic designer, Chuck Byrne of Colophon I (and Hennegan) was given the opportunity to produce the printing of a Carl Solway publication of a portfolio of 13 Buckminster Fuller creations, 3 sheets to each: an architectural-like drawing screen printed on clear acetate, a blue sheet of paper to underlay and a screen printed sheet depicting the realized invention.
Hennegan was a nationally recognized, very good printer, but mostly in the commercial lithography realm. We had added silk screen equipment, but it, and our abilities, were fairly rudimentary. That did not stop Chuck and me from convincing Carl (more likely Chuck, because I doubt I was very convincing) to print this prestigious portfolio on our Flinstonian silk screen press. The paper was ordered, the screens made and the press inked up. Press-side stood Carl and Chuck. Sheets were run, adjustments made. More sheets were run…but, the detail was somewhat akin to a smudge. Carl remained vague and nearly silent. I suppose the awkwardness and disappointment were weighty. A day or two later, we tried and failed again. I think Chuck Byrne finally delivered the obvious news that this was not going to work. They took the project elsewhere. For his part, Carl was a true gentleman, gifting a completed portfolio to the Hennegan Company.
It’s all a bit fuzzy now, but I think the CAC and Carl Solway were, for me and many others, the center of the art scene in Cincinnati. We would print the occasional poster or catalogue for a CAC show and I would check out the shows there and at Carl’s gallery. And, although I was still intimidated by Carl and a bit sheepish about our failure, besides, I had the financial wherewithal to maybe frame a poster. Yet when I stopped in the gallery Carl would take the time to tell me about the artists and their art. Not a lot of words, not the encyclopedia, maybe not even the Cliff Notes, but enough. And what his gallery showed was the encyclopedia: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Twombly, LeWitt, Wesselmann, Fuller, Cage, Judd, Otterson, Bolotin and on and on. The whole of it, mid-century American art: Pop, Minimalism, Fluxus, Abstract Expressionism, video art.
My knowledge was so scant and my resources, too. But, in about 1983 I wandered in to a Tom Wesselmann show at the gallery on 4th Street (while I was ostensibly working, I’m sure). Probably a half hour later, I had purchased my first piece of REAL ART—a fantastic print, “Cynthia Nude”, silk-screened in about 30 perfectly registered colors. Carl, in his gentle way, had launched me into collecting art. It is a print I still enjoy seeing. How many people like me are out there? How much art has Carl filtered into the private and public collections in Cincinnati? A lot. If not for Carl, what would we not have? Just go to the Cincinnati Art Museum now and see. His mark is on this city. We have all been enriched by it. And, I’m still sorry we couldn’t silk screen worth a damn back in the early ‘80s.
Nowadays, I like nothing more than stopping by the gallery on a whim or for an opening and seeing Carl and his son, Michael. They’re still surprising and challenging us. And, I usually like the art, too! But, a lot of the real pleasure is just in seeing these two Solways and listening to them, their love of art, their affable knowledge. We Cincinnatians are pretty lucky.
a wonderful acknowledgement to the inspiring nature of art collecting!
Dear Mr. Ott
Loved your article. Made me laugh and truly touched me to see that my brother – that would be Carl – has had this big influence on the Cincinnati art scene.
Tamara Solway Kramer