Since I started putting together the True Laurels zine in November, the most challenging part hasn't been putting stories and diaries together, it's been learning how to market it as a product. What spots to get it in. Who to send it to. Who to work with. All that shit, you know? Other than the online shop, my stockists are Smash Records in D.C. and Atomic Books in Baltimore, which are working out great. This past weekend, the list got a little longer when I finally stopped by Rock512Devil (512 W. Franklin St.) , a new start-up bookstore and gallery in Baltimore that was established in November by Max Guy, Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva. I really got interested when a few friends were carrying around zines that caught my eye and after asking where they'd come from, everyone told me to go check Max's spot—so I did.
In space, Rock512Devil is pretty small but you'll probably forget about that once you get into what's on the shelves. They have self-help guides in the form of zines, comics, political cartoons, VHS tapes of local bands performing, cassettes, an issue of Girls Like Us magazine with New York's Venus X on the cover, locally made perfumes and art that goes up bi-monthly. I got lost pretty fast. What makes the space so intriguing isn't its quality of inventory, though; it's the nerve to exist. Baltimore's small creative scene needs more young, driven people to be willing to try things and not be so polished with their efforts. It also needs a more organized attempt at unity and collaboration, which these guys do with hosting readings and exhibitions. Mostly everything there—while not being something I'd normally snatch up—was new to me. Nothing felt pretentious and I walked out with a few more zines and products to check out. Rock512Devil isn't trying to be perfect and that's something I appreciate—rawness without sloppiness. I couldn't bounce before making sure that True Laurels joined the well-versed collection.
Wanting to learn more from the curatorial side, I chatted it up with Max. Peep our conversation below:
What was the motivation to create Rock512Devil?
Part of the goal was networking for our individual projects as curators, publishers and artists. Chloe and I colluded sometime in June to discuss moving into a small storefront on the West-side or close to Lexington Market. Initially the gallery was going to be a traveling curatorial project where I would occupy or "possess" a space with my own exhibition style and brand. In hindsight it seems like a bad gimmick, but I liked the potential for a less "provincial" conversation on art. Becoming an anomaly or antagonist of sorts in order to introduce some fresh talent and criticism.
I flipped a coin between Angel and Devil for the name, but I think Rock was set in stone. Rock is the name of the bookstore run by Chloe and Flannery, and Devil the name of the gallery. Rock512Devil alludes to the two projects' cohabitation of the storefront on 512 W. Franklin St., which has become increasingly more collaborative. So if you don't know how to say the name yet just call it what you want, we know what you mean :-)
What's the process of choosing what zines and books fit in well with you guys' aesthetic?
Chloe says we are "critical and inclusive, intensely curated but also not curated at all."
Her and Flannery keep a real healthy and diverse stock of publications, including zines, literature, photobooks, tapes and records. Being selective early on is important, but we stock what is on our radar and frequently tell people to submit samples. Most of it seems to boil down to a unique attitude. Sometimes publishers will surprise us with a whole bunch of extra zines by their friends. I'm most interested in books that introduce new perspectives on literacy. Nowhere Zone by Nick Vyssotzky, Woman In Trouble by the Kingsboro Press (Anything by Kingsboro really) and Ma Vie en Bleu by Milano Chow are some favorites in this regard. I enjoy the way these books make me "read" an image or consider text as an image.
Zine shops aren't too common in Baltimore. Do you see that changing or do you think people are still too wired to the interwebz?
We join the likes of specialty shops such as Normals, Red Emma's and Atomic Books in selling what some might consider "luxury" or "specialty" items. As a shop in Baltimore we can use the the internet as a way of communicating with publishers and distributors far and wide, and promoting local talents. Our strongest presence right now is through our blog, rock512devil.tumblr.com.
Tell me about the bi-monthly art-shows you guys just started doing and other events you've put together.
The bi-monthly schedule seems more manageable, this also means that for the time being -- unless we change our minds -- there will be something like 6 shows in the remainder of our lease. So we're looking to be selective with the artists that we work with (we do not take unsolicited proposals), and deliberate with exhibition curating. Our first exhibit was Z-1 with work by painter Marisa Takal, which opened on December 3rd and closes this weekend. Next up is Vinnie Smith in early February, a prolific photographer and all-around spiritual guy working between NYC and LA.
So while we don't accept proposals for exhibitions, we are interested in creating a culture in the space from intermittent screenings, performances and meetings. Our first screening was of Travis Levasseur's What Happens in Vegas, a cross between sci-fi conspiracy theory video on the suicide rate in Las Vegas and its imminent destruction. Flannery directed a performance of the Glass Menagerie in November. Coming up on January 17th is a screening of the post-apocalyptic vampire sexploitation flick BLOODRAPE, about an all-girl-vampire-hardcore-thrash band. Shout outs to the Director Teer Maman. On Valentine's Day we will have A Night of Unnamed Feeling, a night of ASMR erotica. We're having a poetry reading by Diane Young in conjunction with the Open Space Publications and Multiples fair in March.
Baltimore's creative world is still strangely not controlled by youth culture. Where does Rock512Devil fit into changing that?
Chloe and Flannery have a real vision, and I think the vibe of the store is kind of in-line with their band Odwalla88. To be honest, I have a bit of an "old man" complex; I see this as growing up a little. But the name has Rock and Devil in it for a reason, and I think part of our agenda is to introduce challenging new work to Baltimore City, perhaps challenging standards by creating our own.
For Devil, I like the quote from Goethe's Faust, "I am part of the power that forever wills evil and forever works good." Rock is the X-Ray Spex of bookstores.
Describe the best day Rock512Devil has had so far.
That one day when we started a bookstore and gallery in Baltimore. We're open Saturday and Sunday noon-6 and its great to have consistent visitors.
Rock512Devil is open on Saturdays & Sundays from 12-6 p.m and located at 512 W. Franklin St. Visit their blog @ rock512devil.tumblr.com