Alternative Art Publishing:
Artists' Magazines (1960-1980)
by Stephen Perkins
These two decades witness a steep rise in the
number of magazines edited and produced by artists, all of them
addressing a wide range of concerns, in a variety of formats
and utilizing a host of different printing technologies. Imbued
with the philosophy of opposition inherited from the underground
press and artists' books, and seeking to establish new contexts
for discussion, criticism, dissemination and documentation of
their work, the years 1965-75 are seminal for artist produced
In the words of
Howardena Pindell, the artist produced magazine came to function
as an "alternative space." (1,2) This concept undermined
and collapsed two inherited structures endemic to previous assumptions
about magazines: 1) artists now began to write about the artworld
from within the movements, carving out a partisan position that
circumvented the established critical apparatus, and it was hoped,
would undermine the hegemony of the art world power structure;
2) where previously art work, texts and documentation were 'illustrated'
in magazines, in this new 'space' the magazine became the primary
site for the works themselves. The magazine becomes an exhibition
space, a critical space, a documentary space and an archival
space. Art made for magazines, and intended for reproduction,
introduces a new aesthetic for which Clive Phillpot has coined
the term 'magazine art.' (3)
With ideas of the
traditional gallery in serious question and many artists, nationally
and internationally, working outside of these structures, the
artists' magazine offered an important and efficient link in
disseminating new work amongst this emerging international community.
For artists who's work did not require a physical site for its
realization, artists' magazines functioned as simultaneous bridges
between artists in varied geographic locations and as a sites
through which 'transnational' collaborations could take place.
to this expanded concept of what a magazine could be, was a redefinition
of what could take place in the space of the page itself. The
page subsequently became a site dominated by the visual image,
absorbing the text within itself, and this new fusion permeates
artists' self publishing to this day.
This period spawns
the seeds for the plethora of magazines that start publishing
from 1975 onwards, and equally importantly it provided models
for the shape and structure of artists 'magazines in the future.
Four distinct types of artists magazines branch out from this
period, with the boundaries between these types more flexible
than the following listing would suggest:
- Many artists' magazines started by combining an eclectic
mix of alternative cultural activities, and many expanded to
include an international perspective. By the mid-70s a significant
number had begun to devote themselves to establishing a particular
regional base. These alternative arts periodicals are still with
us today (however many of them are now non-profit groups heavily
dependent upon granting agencies, the same system that many of
them started in reaction against.)
- Magazines that were allied to a particular movement or group
of individuals, i.e. Fluxus, concept art, performance and inter-media,
concrete and visual poetry, Surrealism, Neo-Dada to name only
- Assembling and collaborative magazines.
- Activist artists magazines.
1. Pindell, Howardena. "Alternative
Space: Artists' Periodicals." The Print Collectors Newsletter,
Vol. VIII (4):96-121, Sept-Oct. 1977.
2. For an analysis of the idea of 'alternative space' and the
extensions of this concept as applied to artists' books see;
Linker, Kate. "The artist's book as an alternative space."
Studio International, 195(990): 75-79, 1980.
3. Phillpot, Clive. "Art Magazines and Magazine Art."
Artforum. Feb. 1980.
Cutts, Simon & Lane, Brian. The Artist Publisher. Crafts
Council Gallery. London, 10 Sept.-2 Nov., 1986.
This catalogue for a survey show organized by
Coracle Press has sections dealing with, 'Magazines and Journals,'
and 'Mail-Art and the New Ephemera,' amongst others. "Throughout
the 'modern movement,' at least since the mid-nineteenth century,
artists have published material both as an adjunct to their work
at large and, at times, as its main practice. It is, however,
the preponderance of artists' publishing in the nineteen-sixties
and seventies that forms the more urgent and immediate context
of this survey."
Friedman, Ken. "Notes On The History of the Alternative
Press." Lightworks, (8/9):41-47, 1977.
Short outline of history of North American alternative
newspapers from early 1960's, artist publishers in US, Italy
and England, alternative art journals and artists' periodicals.
"While artists had been involved in periodicals for some
time, in the periods prior to the early '70's, they had generally
been contributors and advisors, collaterally involved with production,
editing and publication rather than directly responsible. The
new movement in artists' periodicals saw artists taking direct
responsibility, willing to spend the effort and energy, the disciplined
work required for regular, serial publications as opposed to
the much easier effort of a book product in a single or even
small press context."
Friedman, Ken. "Mail Art History: The Fluxus Factor."
Flue, 4(3/4): 18-24, 1984.
Gives brief history of contact lists and Fluxus
inspired artists publications. A brief mention of assembling
magazines, and a section on the New York Correspondence School
Weekly Breeder. "The publishing paradigm developed through
Fluxus have had substantial impact on mail art."
Gurney, Susan. "A bibliography of little magazines in
the visual arts in the U.S.A." Art Libraries Journal, 6(3):
A listing of approximately 300 hundred magazines.
Discussing the title of this bibliography Gurney says, "It
was felt that an expansion of the term "little magazine"
could well encompass those periodicals which include visual art,
although the designation "little magazine" has primarily
been applied to literary materials and connotes in the strict
definition this particular type of publication. The selection
that follows for the visual arts has less to do with a specific
definition than with a generally wider range of possibilities
within which the visual arts may be included as subject matter,
either by visual image or through the written word. Many periodicals
today are exploring the interrelationship of word and image through
concrete poetry, language art, or simply juxtaposition of literary
works with visual images. Hence there is a wider potential spectrum
which defies an easy definition." Bibliography includes,
artists' periodicals, institutionally sponsored magazines, alternative
art publications, regional art publications, newsletters, tabloids,
critical/historical periodicals, and a number of more visually
oriented literary publications.
Held, John. "Mail Art Archives." Artpapers, 15(3):8-13,
Includes a short listing of mail art publications.
"Another major source of information about mail art is the
magazines that specialize in mail art. These periodicals are
put out by individuals in the mail art network and serve as on-going
records of mail art activity by listing upcoming mail art shows
and projects, reviewing other mail art publications, interviewing
active networkers, and articulating different facets of the medium."
Lippard, Lucy. Six
Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966-1972.
New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973.
An idiosyncratic collection of entries detailing
bibliographies of artists books, magazines, catalogues, artists
interviews, statements and projects, all of whom were working
broadly within the conceptual arena. "I planned this book
to expose the chaotic network of ideas in the air, in America
and abroad, between 1966 and 1971. While these ideas are more
or less concerned with what I once called a "dematerialization"
of the art object, the form of the book intentionally reflects
chaos rather than imposing order."
Walker, John. "Periodicals Since 1945." The Art
Press: Two Centuries of Art Magazines. Trevor Fawcett & Clive
Phillpot (eds.). London: The Art Book Company, 1976. 45-52.
A survey article covering the broad range of
mainstream, alternative and artists' magazines between 1945 and
1976. It is only in the last section of the article that Walker
deals with artists publications, which he sees as one of, "...the
most crucial developments in art periodicals since 1945, namely
the conflation of art and the art periodical."
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