David Lopes is the acquisition editor of Gingko Press, one of the worldâ€™s foremost publishers of books concerning graphic arts, culture, and the streets. With this position comes great responsibility, since Gingko is known for consistently publishing bombastic and esoteric works. Works like the upcoming Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, Grotesk: A Decade of Swiss Design Lost in Brooklyn and a number of the seminal, yet out of print, works by cultural philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Think you know media from their messages? Read on and find out.
â€œMcLuhan spoke of the ‘city as classroom’, a percept that speaks to the permanence of many influential movements with which we [Gingko Press] are involved. Graffiti and Hip-Hop for example are prime examplesâ€¦â€
Format: How many years has Gingko Press been in existence? What is Gingko’s history?
David Lopes: Gingko Press has been around for about 20 years, was started in Hamburg, Germany by my boss Mo Cohen & his (then) wife Julie Von Der Ropp. As an American who had spent a good amount of time representing Black Sparrow press in Europe, first as a rep and then as a rights agent, Mo came to have a good practical knowledge of the market. Julie brought a strong graphic sensibility to bear, and Gingko Press was born as a distribution company to fill the need for graphic design books in Europe. Later around 1991, after acquiring North American rights to the classic photography book Atget Paris, Mo and Julie opened the Gingko US operation. The US company started mostly as a distribution operation, but eventually evolved into a hybrid of distribution and original publishing. Today we’re about 50/50 distributor/ publisher.
Format: During times of economic recession, funding for art and culture often takes a back seat. What is your counter-claim to this argument?
David Lopes: I can’t really speak to trends in funding for the arts since Gingko Press is a purely commercial venture. We rely on our wits and, more specifically, sales to shops to keep the books coming off the press. Fortunately, it seems that art is like air and water to many people; they can’t live without it.
Format: What has been Gingko’s bestseller?
David Lopes: Shepard Fairey’s Supply & Demand (recently in a new expanded 20th Anniversary edition, by the way) is a phenomenal bestseller at present. I’m very proud to represent this artist and book, as with Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York by long time Gingko Press authors James & Karla Murray.
Format: Gingko Press covers such a wide range of interests from street art, to antique packaging, to architectural criticism. What are your boundaries?
David Lopes: We’re pretty well focused on the visual arts: photography, graphic design, art. We occasionally publish some comics/graphic novels (which I consider both art & literature). I’d like to do more in this category. It’s a dream of mine to publish the next Marjane Satrapi or Art Spiegelman.
Format: Marshall McLuhan has a tab devoted to him on your website. What impact do his philosophies have on Gingko Press?
David Lopes: About a decade ago, our publisher Mo noticed that many important McLuhan books were out of print. Since then, he’s been working to bring the important ones back. McLuhan is a philosopher and interpreter of the ascent of electronic communication. The very phrase sounds almost anachronistic, but McLuhan wrote with incredible insight about â€˜software vs. hardwareâ€™ and the profound impact that communication at the speed of light would inevitably have on society decades before the existence of Microsoft or the Internet. One of the most interesting things about McLuhan is the way that his â€˜probesâ€™ resonate in surprising ways with the rest of the Gingko universe. For instance, McLuhan spoke of the â€˜city as classroom,â€™ a percept that speaks to the permanence of many influential movements with which we’re involved. Graffiti & Hip-Hop for example are prime examples of movements born of the city and its oral culture.
Format: As acquisitions editor at Gingko, you must get hundreds of submissions, how do you decide what makes it to print? What is the process like?
David Lopes: It’s always a challenge. I see many interesting proposals that just miss the mark for whatever reason. In the end, it boils down to a very practical testâ€”can we publish this work profitably? The business of publishing isn’t terribly different than growing grapes or almonds or similar crops that take years to develop before they’re profitable. It begs several questions: Do we feel comfortable having the requisite long-term relationship with the author or authors? Will this book stand the test of time? Does it add to our catalog? The process is different every time, and I feel like I still have a lot to learn about everything from the production nuts & bolts of printing to the psycho-social aspects of helping artists give birth to a new, or aggregate, work.
Format: When choosing books to publish, do you seek to dictate style, or do you acknowledge and reflect the current trends and styles in society?
David Lopes: I think it’s the height of arrogance to try to dictate style, and anyway, style is only skin deep. I think art and artists must have a discernable personality that either stands completely on its own, or alternately adds something meaningful to an ongoing dialog. I feel as if I’ve always gravitated towards art and design that is somewhat oppositional to the mainstream, so it’s been weird to watch so-called â€˜underground cultureâ€™ get eaten and digested by the mainstream over the past couple of decades. I’m sure this is an ongoing cycle throughout all history, but I only have a perspective of this give and take as it pertains to some of the crucial contemporary movements such as Punk Rock and Hip-Hop. To the extent that I’m involved in this process, I feel a great responsibility to make sure that work we produce is consumed in a respectful way, given its due, and not merely blended in a process of homogenization.
Format: Who are some of your favorite artists?
David Lopes: Just about anyone in our publishing program to start. I’ve had the honor to publish and work with many talented and kind people from Rafael Rashid to James Marshall (DALEK), Julie Doucet, Bryan Ray, Sammy Harkham, Shepard Fairey, and Ryan McGinness to name just a few. Some of my favorites outside the sphere of what we’ve published, or have in the pipeline, include Claus Oldenburg, Bruegel, Diane Arbus, SWOON, Tiffany Bozik, Karl Blossfeldt… I could go on… My Mom’s been raving about the William Kentridge show currently exhibiting at the SFMOMA. I don’t know much about Kentridge, but this sounds like a must-see.
Format: What’s coming out in the future for Gingko Press?
David Lopes: I’m very excited about a monograph on New York based artist named Dan WItz. He has a ridiculous range and has touched on everything from street art to pranks and very fine oil paintings from a career that spans four decades. Look for a book on the oft-overlooked Minneapolis based band Atmosphere, and their parent indie label Rhymesayers coming out later this yearâ€”this is a long overdue document about some cats with mad talent. I’m also fired up to get our partnership with Upper Playground off the ground. For a couple years we’ve distributed U.P. books, but now we’re stepping into a more formal co-publishing arrangement to cement the relationship.