'Foundations' Magazine Spotlights On-Point Artists Before They Blow Up

We spoke with the founders of <i>Foundations</i>, a biannual arts magazine that always gives you something fresh to talk about.

Zach Sokol

Zach Sokol

If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide on which of those zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.

All images courtesy of Foundations Magazine.

I first flipped through the crisp, minimal pages of Foundations when I saw it sitting on my kitchen table. My then-roommate, curator, consultant, arts publicist, and former VICE employee, Marcella Zimmermann, had left out a copy of the first issue, which was published in late fall, 2014. I immediately liked that it featured a swath of downtown cool-people artists like the guy who runs Hamburger Eyes and Lizzie Wright of Essex Flowers, as well as niche creatives I'd never heard of (but whose names I've been noticing more and more in the months since I initially peeked at the biannual publication).

When I told Marcella I appreciated the mag's mix of on-the-pulse art world cred and idiosyncratic curation, she replied, "Thanks, cutie," with a giggle. It took me a minute to realize it was her magazine, and she had been working on it with editor-in-chief (and her high-school bud) Sebastian Gladstone on the low in between her countless other responsibilities, such as cleaning up our cat's goddamn litter box.

One year and two issues later, Foundations' issue three is my personal favorite. As always, it features interviews with artists who will likely experience a spike in Instagram followers (and maybe blue-chip sale prices) in about six months from now, such as the painter Jamian Juliano-Villani. The most recent cover story, in particular, is a nuanced take on the tired trope of artists documenting members of their family: Artist Carly Mark writes about how her grandmother Florine became president of Weight Watchers, enabling her family to live a blessed life and, subsequently, allowing Mark to become the artist she is today.

The whole magazine is on point, and it gives me arts-related conversations to talk about at parties where I have to pretend I'm smarter than I am. Gladstone and Zimmermann chatted with me about what sets Foundations apart from every other biannual arts publication you might have seen at the New York Art Book Fair this past weekend.

VICE: What was your goal with this publication?
Sebastian Gladstone: Even if you have immense talent and drive, breaking into the institutionalized art world is challenging, especially if you don't know the right people. With FOUNDATIONS, we want to offer exposure to people regardless of who they know.

What sets your print publication from the crop of other downtown arts and culture publications that seem to appear out of the abyss each year?
One of the biggest differences is our design. It's hopefully minimal to the point where all you notice is the art, similar to the design of a good gallery. We have a mission and very focused idea of what we are trying to say. We cover a very specific part of the art world, and don't delve into fashion, music, or culture. Also, we aren't a news organization, and we stay out of the "art-market" side of things, so we are able to run on our own pace.

Marcella Zimmermann: That said, we are excited by the resurgence of niche publishing. I want there to be as many magazines about young artists as there are about vintage cars.

Can you tell me about the name Foundations?
Gladstone: The foundation is the first thing that is built, but also the strongest part of a structure. That's what we want to be for artists, writers, and curators—we showcase the beginnings of careers and projects, essentially the foundation they will build on.

Zimmermann: Those ideas can come in the form of a performance at our magazine release like we did during the New York Art Book Fair over the weekend, or a special edition we release under our imprint like we did for MOCA earlier this year, or special event. For our Los Angeles release next month, we're doing a party with #LivingRoomToday, a collective of DJs, artists, and performers on the internet who gather IRL to produce monthly events.

Images from issue three of FOUNDATIONS. Photos by Katie McCurdy

Can you tell me about the cover story?
Gladstone: Foundations utilizes the print medium to present projects that have to be realized IRL. In our latest issue, there are conceptual ads that very well could be real products, but aren't, and you don't exactly know what is real and what isn't when you flip through the magazine.

For the new issue we really wanted to push the potential of the printed medium, and artist Carly Mark wanted to do this piece on her grandmother Florine, who was very influential in her upbringing. Another big theme was examining the way fashion editorials are presented, and how they shape the people we look up to.

We sent photographer Katie McCurdy with Carly to shoot an editorial of Florine, and turned her into the cover star of the magazine. Florine's story is interesting in itself. [She's] very much a person [for whom] the American dream of working hard and succeeding is a reality. Carly wanted to tell that story in a way that young people could relate to, and so turned her grandmother into a star.

You write in the editor's note that this issue is about "removing genres."
We filter through tons of artists, galleries, etc., and eventually a list is created that we all agree fits with what the issue is talking about. With this issue, we were looking for art that cannot be categorized so simply as "abstract art" or "post-internet." For example, Jessi Reaves makes art that looks like furniture or is furniture. It's really impossible to categorize it as one thing, which I think is great, and takes a lot of courage to create.

Who would be your ideal feature or subject? And on the contrary, who's someone we'd never see in this mag?
I don't know if we have an ideal subject in the literal sense, but essentially with our subject matter we are looking to expose ideas and movements that have not hit the mainstream yet. I really like the idea of young people finding new ways to talk about old subjects, such as in our new issue Alexander Schulan talks about Sturtevant's retrospective.

How has the mag evolved since issue one? What are you doing better now?
The biggest thing was learning how to make a magazine —none of us had ever done anything like this before. I did the first issue completely on my own and learned everything from basic layout to how to build a website. But now thanks to the Foundations team, we have a good system for copy-editing, organizing content, design, etc. When I started the mag, I was really just winging everything. But now I feel like we really know who we are speaking to, what we are speaking about, and where we are trying to go.

Zimmermann: The voice of FOUNDATIONS is more of a choir made up of all the artists and contributors. In our new issue we have an interview by Keith J. Varadi with visual artist Jamian Juliano-Villani. We gave them a six-page spread to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about with no intervention or direction from the editors—which was great because Keith and Jamian have known each other for years. We're artists, not media mavens, so we don't care if what we put out sells out or gets a million views. Every time we put out an issue, our community of artists expands, our voice is louder, and we make more of an impact. Someday we hope to open the Foundations Foundation.

You once told me you're aiming to document up-and-coming artists, but not necessarily people who are already super hyped. Can you elaborate?
Gladstone: Going on what you said about all the other magazines out there; how many sources do you need covering the same shows in Chelsea? We don't have the viewership to compete with magazines that cover those events, but also don't want to. We want to show what everyone else isn't showing, but also what they don't even know exists.

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You can buy copies of Foundations issue three and read some articles from past issues here.