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C.R Stecyk III's Mono Prints

CR Stecyk III at BEYOND THE STREETS, Los Angeles, 2018. Photographed by Beau Roulette

Native Angeleno C.R. Stecyk III is a multimedia artist widely acknowledged as a major influence within the genres of graffiti and street art. Stecyk’s mono prints are iconic to his practice of surreptitiously placing poster pieces in out-of-context environments, a format chosen as homage to common trade advertisements and deliberately designed at 14” x 22” — the industry-standard “show card” size.

Stecyk was involved with the founding of the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica, California, where the boards he painted helped to establish the graphic styles of both surfing and skateboarding. He created numerous iconic symbols of surfing and skateboarding, such as the Lance Mountain skull logo, the “Vato Rat,” the Dogtown cross, and the “Skate and Destroy” marks. He was a writer and production designer on the Sundance award-winning documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys and is one of the founders of Juxtapoz magazine. Stecyk has written and photographed extensively on the topics of art, surfing, skateboarding, custom car culture, and obscure California history.
“Commercial advertising never interested me much. And fine art seemed too far removed from the feverish life and vivid aesthetics of street culture.

Craig Stecyk Explains His Love for Prints

The term “posters” originated in London on Fleet Street where public notices printed by William Claxton were attached to poles. Claxton also is credited with bringing the first printing press to England in 1476, as well as with printing the first English language bible and novel. 

The humble trade bills that adorned the windows, walls and telephone poles of the city were a tremendous attractant. Eventually I obtained several printing presses and photographic enlargers with which I began crafting visual expressions onto 14” x 22” paper. This size is the standard trade format of window display cards. The pieces I create are predominantly mixed media mono prints. They incorporate hand painting, photographic, serigraphic, Chine colle and letterpress processes. I have literally produced thousands of posters and distributed them freely.

Craig Stecyk photographed by Martha Cooper

The wooden type employed in the crafting of some of my works is over 100 years old. It was originally used to print American Circus posters.  The history of printing traces all the way back to Mesopotamian impressed clay tablets before 3000BCE and more direct predecessors like a ink rubbings from the Han dynasty and the mechanical woodblock printing of the Tang dynasty. Gutenberg’s methodology is essentially the same as mine. 

I possess no particular reverence for print making as either a commercial or fine arts process. My interests are more concerned with throwing up imagery that is impermanent and fleeting. I enjoy the disjointed expressiveness of a hand painted piece of art baking to oblivion that is stapled to a forlorn telephone pole in the middle of nowhere. If no one ever sees it so much the better. This is the transitory nature of communication. The un-heard sound of a tree falling when no one is in the forest to experience it is a symphonic proposition that continues to attract me. Wittgenstein offered, “The logical picture of the facts is the thought.”  Creating transitory impressions on the fly may be what Ludwig had in mind?  The dissemination of unexplained imagery in random places is a perpetual pursuit. What better museum venue exists than the world at large?          

Herbert Colby the venerable Angelino commercial pressman once described the poetics of communication to me.  His admonition: “Make it bright clean and readable at 65 miles and hour.” 

A pole and acceleration are all we need. The speed of the passing car is the determining factor of the motorists ever-changing angles of view and the duration of their viewing period. Shakespeare’s original efforts at the old Globe were populist fare yet now they’re considered highbrow. Getting one hit in three at bats qualifies you for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  So why not court failure?  Martin Luther nailed his printed Ninety-Five Theses treatises to the front door of Wittenberg Church in 1517 and from there revolution spread.
I first accompanied my father to assorted printers as a youth and was attracted to their design and execution process.  Shops he traded with in the fifties and sixties included Majestic Show Press, the Colby Poster Printing Co., and the Santa Monica Press. They printed posters commemorating events and products he was involved with. Kustoms Of America cars shows, Ford Custom Caravan signage and Lincoln Mercury dealer call outs are some projects that I remember. 
The backs of my father’s printed notices served as my primary art material for years. Eventually I traveled across the country pulling down hundreds more cards in order to repurpose their paper stock. The aforementioned were printed by numerous printers. These included efforts by Colby, Temple Litho, Majestic Show Press, US Printing and Engraving, Globe, Aardvark, Tilighman, Hatch, Enterprise, Horwinski, Goes Litho, Southern, Yee-Haa, Triangle, Colorcraft and others. Their harvesting afforded me further education about trade schemes and typography.  As the letterpress aspect of printing faded from prominence I acquired archaic wood fonts and “obsolete” apparatus. 
Over the last five decades I have maintained a studio printing workshop. Currently I have three operational relief presses, several serigraphic rigs and numerous examples of historical wooden type fonts and personal illustration cuts. The dark room features enlargers for each format ranging from 16mm to 8” x 10.”
NORTHRIDGE POOL, 1976. Iris print and letterpress. Based on an original photograph taken of Jay Adams in 1976 by Stecyk. It was printed on a letterpress color field in the artists’ atelier in 2016.
SQUARE CALAVERA, 1985. Mixed Media, Letterpress, Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles California.
MOTION PICTURE CAMERA, 2010. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California.
SEAHORSE, 2010. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California.
HAVE YOU SEEN HIM, 1986. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California. 
This work subsequently became associated with Stacy Peralta’s 1987 film THE SEARCH FOR ANIMAL CHIN. The artist performed as the title character’s stunt double in the motion picture production.
SATAN RIDES ALONE, 2004. Letterpress, Printed off of Stecyk blocks at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California.
INVERTED ON STRIKE, 2010. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk blocks at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California. 
The main image is a 1975 Stecyk photo of Jay Adams. The STRIKE type was utilized by printers’ union workers in their efforts protesting against the Los Angeles Herald Express. The celebrating crowd cut appeared in ads for the Casino Gardens in Ocean Park, CA.
Mc COY VS POLLOCK, 2010. Letterpress Printed off of Stecyk archive block at Colby Poster Printing Company in Los Angeles, California. Imprinted at bottom - CRS lll -MOCA. Originally done for Art In The Streets exhibition at MOCA LA.
Jackson McCoy, attended Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles where he met Phillip Goldstein. Both studied art at the school and were taught by Frederick Schwankovsky. Additionally each worked on differing projects with the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. In 1932 the latter executed the outdoor mural America Tropical in LA employing an automotive spray gun. Jackson came to prominence later in New York using the last name of Pollock, and Phillip also became very successful there working under the nom de plume of Phillip Guston. Siqueiros’ Tropical America was extremely controversial and was covered by white wash shortly after its creation. Eighty years later the Getty Foundation and the City of Los Angeles spent nine million dollars in a restoration of the Mexican master’s work. McCoy vs Pollock also references the much discussed battle of the artist against his own self destructive alcoholic behavior. Stecyk is perplexed by the philosophical nature of art and ponders “Is success a question of naming or timing?” McCoy vs Pollock is in the permanent collection of MOCA LA.
UNION HARD WARE AND METAL COMPANY, 150 NO. CENTRAL, 2011. Letterpress. Printed at Colby Poster Printing Company in Los Angeles, California. 
This piece appeared in the Art In The Streets exhibition in 2011, and it also is in the MOCA LA permanent collection. The Union Hardware and Metal Company was the original business that occupied the site on which the MOCA LA Geffen Museum operates out of today.
This piece is in the permanent collection of MOCA LA. It was created for Stecyk’s Faith, Hope and Charity installation at MOCA Los Angeles, California. Stecyk grew up visiting family members in the historic Bunker Hill district which once occupied the site where MOCA LA main museum is now situated. Grand Avenue, the location of MOCA LA, was originally named Charity Street. Reportedly residents complained “no one wants to say that they live on Charity Street.” Hope Street is still operational in the neighborhood. Local lore has differing locations for the purported existence/placement of Faith St. The artist salvaged cast off Victorian architectural elements from the demolition refuse of Bunker Hill that he occasionally uses in art works.
This work is included in the permanent collections of MOCA LA, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The International Printing Museum, Carson, CA. “My family worked on projects with three generations of the Colby clan. I personally interacted on jobs with Herbert Colby, his son in law Rouse Hinman and the founder’s grandsons Glen, Lee and Larry Hinman. The ADIOS pieces were very different in character from one another as I intentionally strove to create variety. The techniques that I had developed over the years while printing mono prints on my own presses were utilized on Colby’s press for our collective last effort. I enjoyed a strong collegial relationship with the Colby Poster Printing Company. Felipe Lima, Susanne Melanie Berry and I collaborated with the Hinmans on a film for MOCA TV documenting Colby’s history and their impact on the culture. Three Union Shop premiered in 2013. Personally, after Colby’s dissolution, I procured cases of type and illustrative cuts which my father, and or I had utilized. Additionally I garnered a selection of the company’s printed pieces, fixtures, business records, technical formulas and shop manuals etc. as well as Herbert and Zelda Colby’s Rolodex file. I physically participated in the tear out and equipment removal process and was subsequently involved with the preservation of the company’s business records.”
CRS lll Steel Belted Radial, 2010. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company in Los Angeles, California.
CHARITY STREET, 2012. Letterpress. Printed off Stecyk archival block at Colby Poster Printing Company, Los Angeles, California. 
“S”, 2011. Letterpress. Printed off of Stecyk block at Colby Poster Printing Company in Los Angeles, California.
ADIOS- THE LAST ONE, December 31, 2012. Letterpress. This was the last piece ever printed at the Colby Poster Printing Company in Los Angeles, California. 
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