The joy of illustration (I use "joy" often in pandemic-era prose) is a simple equation: surprise + illumination + craft + ingenuity + style = revelation (or s+i+c+i+s=r). Public Eye, the new publication from Josh Gosfield (with co-curator David Cowles), is a "collective art magazine. … The mission is to give great artists an opportunity to publish great art on a theme, alongside the work of other great artists." The premiere issue is devoted to "Heroes." It is a broad pantheon of living and dead, known and lesser-known creations by well-known artist/illustrators. It already includes a nice cast: Barry Blitt, Edel Rodriguez, Roz Chast, Seymour Chwast, Drew Friedman, Phillip Burke, Gerard DuBois, Yuko Shimizu, Anita Kunz and many more. An image-a-day will be posted on Instagram, too. I spoke to Gosfield about the venture below.
Public Eye follows a long tradition of satiric, political and social art magazines. What is your intention in following this tradition?
Public Eye is less a strictly satirical magazine than a collective art project for great artists to express themselves, whatever their viewpoint might be—satirical, psychedelic, sad or serious. My co-curator David Cowles and I are artists ourselves, and we thought, Wouldn’t it be great to create a magazine where artists like us could create whatever we wanted, without having to please an editor or an art director or illustrate a story on ‘The 24 Most Loved Stocks on Wall Street?’
Our model for Public Eye harkens back to Samizdat (Russian for "self-publishing")—the pamphlets, zines and DIY publications created and distributed by dissidents, crackpots and revolutionaries in the repressive days of the Soviet Union. The Samizdat artists and writers didn't ask for permission or approval from the authorities. They made what they wanted and then published it.
What is an issue going to be built on? Is it thematic or a playground for satiric artists to throw their work into the public realm?
The idea of each issue is to select a theme and then curate an amazing and eclectic group of artists and invite them to create whatever they want.
So yes, the magazine is a showcase for artists to create whatever they want, but because everyone is creating work on a common theme—in this first issue, Heroes—the magazine becomes a kaleidoscopic commentary on the theme that will inspire, shock and enlighten readers, and hopefully get them thinking about the concept of the hero—who their own heroes are, and why.
Who is funding this publication? And in an age of diminishing print, is it viable?
We are self-funded. If the definition of “viable” is inspiring artists to create great work, we are already viable. As far as being economically viable … who knows? It sure would be nice for our artists to gain a wider audience and, of course, for us artists to make a little bit of extra money.
Actually, I read recently in the Times that print is coming back as an alternative to digital fatigue. Do you believe this is true?
Print will never die. Just as TV became an option that drew some people away from the theater and recorded music drew some people away from concerts, the World Wide Web drew some people away from print. But we all know that there is nothing like curling up on a couch with a good book or magazine—whether it’s a true crime novel, a biography of a pop star or an art book full of beautiful pictures.
Is this going to be a bubble, or more open and expansive? Or doesn't it matter?
Like any other project, we started with the people in our bubble. For David and me, that was the top tier of illustrators. Then we reached out to artists we admired from all over the world, including a cake maker, a puppeteer, a needlepoint artist and printmakers. The dream for the future is that we keep finding innovative artists with new attitudes and surprising sensibilities who work in weird mediums and create visionary work.