Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers, title page (detail), 1959, from the portfolio Stones, 1960. Lithograph. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, gift of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, 2012. Photo © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara: Stones

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Tatyana Grosman founded Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in 1957 to produce artists’ books in the style of classic European livres d’artistes, many of which resulted from close collaborations between an artist and author. For her first important project, she selected Larry Rivers (American, 1923 – 2002), an apt choice since many of his friends were writers and poets, including the celebrated Frank O’Hara (American, 1926 – 1966), whom the artist chose as a partner for this portfolio.

Rivers and O’Hara worked together in the former’s studio, passing the lithography crayon back and forth as the artist drew the images and the poet wrote the verse on lithography stones. Delving into this medium for the first time, without any previous technical instruction, Rivers and O’Hara struggled with creating images and text in reverse, as printmaking requires. Grosman, who favored quality materials, selected handmade papers for the collaborative prints, including a heavy blue paper made from denim cuttings for the cover.

The resulting portfolio, aptly titled Stones, was published in 1960 and consisted of 14 lithographs: 12 that each feature an image and a poem, plus a title page and a colophon. The edition numbered 25, along with five artist proof portfolios. It was a landmark publication for ULAE, setting the standard of quality that was to become a hallmark of the workshop, and marking the beginning of a long and productive relationship with Rivers.

This presentation marks the 55th anniversary of the portfolio’s publication. The Museums’ edition, given in 2012 by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, is shown in its entirety.

Currently on view