A Mix of Old and New

Aaron Cohick is the founder of NewLights Press, which publishes his own and the work of other artists. If one were to meander to his website, they’d see one of the mediums they use for publications is “the obselete (letterpress),” which Cohick prides himself in.

In fact, many consider the letterpress to be a thing of the past, even with these quirky small presses using them. On the other hand, because quirky small presses are seeming to slowly get the credit they’ve been yearning for, one could argue that print is, in fact, alive.

“I don’t think that as a culture we are going to come to any conclusions for a good many years, but what we need to do now is ask some meaningful, productive questions,” said Cohick in A Poetics of the Press.

“The Work Continues” series printed by letterpress on chipboard. Photo taken from NewLights Press website.

Compared to their other broadsides, this is probably NewLights’ most traditional object. It’s clean and clear cut while a majority of the work they publish is rather risky; words on top of words on top of backgrounds on top of designs on top of streaks on top of etc. on top of ect.

“& Now & Now” from NewLights Press. Image taken from their website.

Because of this war between the traditional way and new way of doing things, many will side with one or the other, simultaneously showing how broad the definitions of those words are. Some may think one form is old while another says how it’s used more in contemporary works. Meanwhile, Cohick acknowledges the talent of both traditional and modern artists and their contribution to the small press industry.

Cohick himself looks to early art of the Modernist movement and the Minimalism that appeared in the 60’s and 70’s; however, he admires the Renaissance, simply because it encapsulates what he wants to portray in his work: “the exploration of sometimes radically new and/or completely deranged territory.”

He also views the relationship between old and new as a mentor and student rather than enemies.

“The new is always an extension of the old, its basic tropes and conventions being derived from the earlier technology,” he said.

As for the letterpress, Cohick calls for those with the supplies to put them to good use.

“We are beginning to see [print] clearly for the first time, and now we can get it to ask questions about its own structures, internally and externally,” said Cohick. “This is a time to be making work, not objects — objects that are a fortress of ossified tradition — but work that does work, that sees that everything that we love and cherist about print and books is part of a living culture, subject to and dependent upon change for its vitality.”

Works cited:

Schlesinger, Kyle, et al. “Aaron Cohick.” A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers, Cuneiform Press, Austin, TX, 2021, pp. 310-321.

2 thoughts on “A Mix of Old and New”

  1. Their work looks so cool! It’s interesting how this press isn’t afraid to take a chance with something rather “risky” as you put it. I can definitely see bits of the Modernist and Minimalist art movements in both of the images you provided; it’s super intriguing how the different movements can affect the work the press produces!

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  2. NewLights Press, founded by Aaron Cohick, was also my favorite interview conducted by Kyle Schlesinger in A Poetics of The Press. I also found a similar connection to his work in that he states that this is the time to be making work that is part of living culture that is subject to and dependent upon change and vitality. But, most distinctly, Cohick’s aspirations to defy traditional barriers is an inspiring new source that helps motivate how I approach writing.

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