the Aspen Magazine. Boxed ……..
by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
As promised, this is the Andy Warhol designed issue of ASPEN (the magazine in a box). It’s issue #3/December 1966 ($4). It came out right at the height of the Silver Factory period with pre-release Velvet Underground participation and the whole works.
Right off the bat, I want to point out how dramatically different this whole issue is from issue #4 that was showed in an earlier blog. that’s the way this magazine in a box idea worked – every issue was utterly and completely different from the next. the only commonality was the uniform ‘box’ device. everything else was open for grabs.
In this issue there’s articles by Lou Reed, Bob Chamberlain, Bob Shelton and a “report from the Berkeley conference on LSD”. there’s a flexi-disk of a Lou Reed/velvet underground experiment called “loop”. there’s an “exploding plastic inevitable” “shopper” advertising flyer-style newspaper flyer. there’s a coupon book and a flip book by Jack Smith (of an underground film called “buzzards over baghdad” – that’s an homage to warhol’s earlier film “kiss”.) There’s posters and pieces of film and all sorts of crazy nutty zany wacky stuff. this issue was a real gem.
this was right at the height of warhol’s exploitation of the commerical art medium as a metaphor for the larger and the fine art culture. he was still doing soupcans and brillo boxes and the like. soon he would be branching into Mao and Marilyns and music and film and documentation and voyeurism and (eventually) portraiture and the like.
So, this issue of this magazine accidentally documents a point of time not only in Warhol’s artistic development, but it also documents a distinct and important turning point in American pop culture. is it no wonder that ASPEN followed this issue with an issue devoted to Marshal Mcluhan designed by Quentin Fiore.
Also around this time, Warhol churned out of his factory a book published by Random House (the “popular” press). it was called “Andy Warhol’s index (book)” and is full of similarly amazing and surprising little graphic tricks – pop-ups, flexi-discs, die-cuts, crazy folds, bizarre uncommon materials. the other thing these two projects had in common was subject matter and (especially to my eye) really shitty design. It looks downright PUNK.
So, we have culture-defining concept work along side supremely sophisticated graphic arts skills combined with completely crappy DIY style downright incompetent graphic design work. just like our popular media everywhere. In other words, this is stuff is as perfect and groundking and defining as everything else Warhol was (literally) playing with at that moment.
True to the factory concept (as defined in the history of fine art and commercial practice) a lot of the work on the actual pieces are tackled by ‘workers’ in the factory (in this case, largely photographer, documentor and designer billy name.) Andy’s name goes on it just like IBM’s name goes on everything it makes. the owner’s name is on the door and on the product.
But the actual creative actions are executed under the control and direction of the management (in this case andy warhol). this is how design firms and ad agencies (and renaissance art studios as well) have operated since time immemorial. those ‘workers’ in the Silver Factory should have unionized. that would have been a real trip.
Sometimes, in popular (and the reflecting “fine”) cultures, there are subcultures that exist within the larger framework of our shared popular culture. extremely rarely, there appears a hub, a “genius cluster”, a collection of minds and actions so finely tuned that they become defining moments and actions affecting all of us in the larger ‘parent’ culture. this factory place (and the thoughts and intincts of andy warhol) was one of those moments/places. things came out of there that changed the world.
Not bad for a bunch of speed freaks.
Art Chantry: feral house books just issued a book on the history of amphetamines and popular culture. i’ve been fascinated by the links for a loooong time. seems every mover&shaker in every subcultural movement since WW2 has been a speed freak. even the nazi high command was speeding out of their minds. you can work your way straight down the list and there they are, leading the way. the book is even shaped like a pill capsule! i’m glad somebody finally documented that peculiar history.
these just a few of the ‘articles’ tossed into the box of aspen #3.
the bottom “photographic” image of the multi-armed person is actually a folder like a press release folder. inside there are three ‘articles’ typed on a cheap type-writer (typos and all) cheaply reproduced on different colored cheap paper and stapled together. then they are stuffed into the promo pocket folder.
there’s a flexi-disc in there (i don;t think the label reproduced very well) of the velvet underground experiment called “Loop”.
at the top is the masthead of a cheap-o newsprint “shopper”-style ad flyer/paper titled “the exploding plastic inevitable.” it’s chock full of crazy collages of old fake ads and the like. arty-farty punk before i’s time.
the little stapled booklet at he bottom is actually a “ticket book”. each ticket is a piece written by a participant of the berkeley conference on LSD about the experience of an acid trip. get it?
above that is a flip-book (where you hold one end with your left hand and then ‘fan’ the pages to create a sequential flash of images and make real animation). it’s by underground film maker legend Jack Smith and features a film called “buzzards over baghdad” and virtually re-makes warhol’s short film “kiss”.
This is the tip of an iceberg. there’s so much cool stuff that really push around the edges of accepted culture (especially for the mid 60’s) that is sort of blows one’s mind and ushers in a new re-defining cynicism for our own shared accepted values and definitions.
absolutely great stuff.