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Outsider Artbook: See the Apocalypse Before It Happens!
Calvin Reid -- 9/14/98
As the end (or is it the beginning?) of the millennium approaches, some people are worried about the end of the world. However, three optimistic friends, all in their 20s (who also happen to be accomplished creative professionals), have launched a new press, and their first title will focus on a collection of religious, visionary and just plain strange artwork often devoted to that subject.
The new venture is called Dilettante Press and its first book, The End Is Near!: Visions of Apocalypse, Millennium and Utopia, will be published in October ($55 cloth, $34.95 paper; 10,000 copies initially) and distributed by D.A.P. This timely, fascinating book collects color reproductions of work by 58 artists that depict religious, cosmic and often quite psychotic visions of fantastic worlds and states of mind. Adding to its inherent surreality, the book features an eclectic collection of essayists, among them Stephen Jay Gould, author and professor of paleontology, the Dalai Lama and Roger Manley, a prominent curator of visionary art.

The book is likely to benefit from millennial hype and a burgeoning pop cultural engagement with so-called "outsider" art -- idiosyncratic art work, generally by self-taught artists.

Dilettante Press was launched in 1995 by editor Jodi Wille, a photographer and filmmaker; publisher Steve Nalepa, who handles the business operations; and designer Nick Rubenstein. Wille told PW that the book and publishing company grew out of the cofounders' mutual interest in outsider art, specifically initiated by an exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md., in 1996. After discovering that the museum could not afford to publish a catalogue of the show, the three friends decided that "it would be cool to publish a book that could expand the notion of what art can be," Wille explained. As a result, the End Is Near! features "archival quality but has an edge that will appeal to troublemakers and educated misfits like us," she said.

The artists range from the evangelical preacher and artist Howard Finster to the late Grant Wallace, whose weird, never-before-exhibited drawings and charts reproduced what he described as telepathic visions from other planets.Hennessey and Ingalls, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based independent art and architecture bookstore, is throwing a pub party for the book and mounting an in-store exhibition of the original works through October. Douglas Woods, who manages the store along with Robert Barrett, told PW, "It's culturally important. We liked the crossover appeal. The work draws people from the art scene, the religious community, youth culture and celebrity collectors."

And Tower Books, known for its focus on popular and youth culture, told PW that the book will be featured with in-store displays at 95 Tower Books and Records stores nationwide. Tower Books project coordinator John Hennessey said, "We have a strong audience for outsider artists like J Coleman [who is included in the book]. We hope and expect the book to do really well for us."

Wille also noted that the book will have a website. Dilettante Press can be reached at (323) 256-4006.
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