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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 magazines.
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.
Running parallel 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 a few.
  • 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): 12-55, 1981.
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, 1991
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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