Your dear Culture Editor was on the radio the other day. There was a question asked on what we thought were the best exhibitions of the year. Fortunately, my selected show is still on.
Aspen magazine ran from 1965-1971. It was, arguably, the first multimedia magazine, containing articles, artworks, all kinds of music on 7” flexidiscs, and films included on rolls of 8mm film. Altogether, it came in a box that was redesigned by the guest editors of each issue to match its theme. Contributors to the magazine included some of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century. Bear with me; from a total of almost two hundred I will name John Lennon, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Jean Renoir, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Andy Warhol, Marshall McLuhan, Roy Lichtenstein, Allen Ginsberg, Willem de Koonig – I could go on. Aspen magazine is one of the most recognisable objects of 1960s Conceptual avant-garde, and until March can be seen in the Archive Gallery at Whitechapel Gallery.
What makes this show so good? It’s the depth. It’s fantastically difficult to make a coherent exhibition when you’re working from publications – simply, by displaying them in boxes and vitrines you take away one of their great benefits: their tangibility, their objecthood. This is essentially their sense of being that is being undermined. But Whitechapel Gallery have added layers and layers of contextual material, interviews, multimedia audiovisual material, both archive and newly-created. It’s a serious point of learning through art and fulfils the potential of the gallery magnificently.
Aspen Magazine 1965-1971 is at Whitechapel Gallery until 03 March 2013.