An Alternative Space for Art
- Honorable Mention, 2011 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in Art History & Criticism, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers
376 pp., 8 x 10 in, 125 color illus.
- Published: August 21, 2015
- Published: March 4, 2011
How artists' magazines, in all their ephemerality, materiality, and temporary intensity, challenged mainstream art criticism and the gallery system.
During the 1960s and 1970s, magazines became an important new site of artistic practice, functioning as an alternative exhibition space for the dematerialized practices of conceptual art. Artists created works expressly for these mass-produced, hand-editioned pages, using the ephemerality and the materiality of the magazine to challenge the conventions of both artistic medium and gallery. In Artists' Magazines, Gwen Allen looks at the most important of these magazines in their heyday (the 1960s to the 1980s) and compiles a comprehensive, illustrated directory of hundreds of others.
Among the magazines Allen examines are Aspen (1965–1971), a multimedia magazine in a box—issues included Super-8 films, flexi-disc records, critical writings, artists' postage stamps, and collectible chapbooks; Avalanche (1970-1976), which expressed the countercultural character of the emerging SoHo art community through its interviews and artist-designed contributions; and Real Life (1979-1994), published by Thomas Lawson and Susan Morgan as a forum for the Pictures generation. These and the other magazines Allen examines expressed their differences from mainstream media in both form and content: they cast their homemade, do-it-yourself quality against the slickness of an Artforum, and they created work that defied the formalist orthodoxy of the day. Artists' Magazines, featuring abundant color illustrations of magazine covers and content, offers an essential guide to a little-explored medium.
…amongst the most thorough discursions into the influence of little magazines upon late-twentieth-century visual culture...it is great to read for its well-researched history and analysis of a period when little magazines were testing the waters of art and publishing.
[An] intently researched valentine to vintage small-press heroics.
Allen's ability to read artists' magazines with the same kind of close attention demanded by works of art is admirable, and the detailed appendix of journals founded between 1945 and 1989 is indispensable. No longer will artists' magazines be considered epiphenomena of artistic production. This book is essential reading for anyone who is concerned with art of the second half of the twentieth century.
Alexander Alberro, author of Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity
Beautifully written and brilliantly designed, Gwen Allen's book demonstrates how magazines from Avalanche and Art-Rite to File and Real Life opened a critical and creative alternative to the commercial gallery system and the mainstream art press. Best of all, Allen makes the magazines—and the history of conceptual art and collaborative publication—come alive again. Artists' Magazines is at once an indispensable visual archive, a superb scholarly feat, and a great read.
Richard Meyer, Associate Professor of Art History and Director of The Contemporary Project, University of Southern California
Gwen Allen engagingly excavates the fertile ground of artists' magazines and brings key artifacts of historical innovation to light. Allen deftly details how, beginning in the early sixties, a range of artists and writers effectively activated the magazine form as vehicle and the page as medium, generating dynamic communities in the process. Allen's book is itself a page-turner!
Julie Ault, artist, writer, and cofounder of Group Material
This study of several artists' magazines from the sixties to the eighties, centered mainly on the downtown New York art scene, usefully augments more familiar ways of regarding the events of that time. Most of these magazines were clearly nurseries for new talents that had no home in existing organs, and therefore took the initiative to make their work public on their own terms. Artists' Magazines is particularly valuable for the inclusion of extracts from interviews with editors and protagonists, who thereby put on record new information with the perspective of hindsight. Underlying the profiling of certain titles is an interwoven narrative that considers the functions and characteristics of the genre and its international significance during that period.
Clive Phillpot, writer, curator, and former art librarian