Launched in 1964, the insanely avant-garde Aspen was a three-dimensional, multimedia magazine in a box. Inventive to the last, the New York-based publication included reels of Super-8 film, postcards, phonograph recordings of spoken word, jazz and electronica, sewing patterns, essays on critical theory and LSD, musical scores, posters, poetry, scripts, booklets and – hidden at the bottom – an advert or two.
As publisher Phillis Johnson reminded subscribers to the first issue, the word ʻmagazineʼ originally meant ʻa storehouse, a cache, a ship laden with stores.ʼ With contributions from David Hockney, Susan Sontag, John Cage, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Ossie Clark, Peter Blake, William S. Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, Lou Reed, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Robert Rauschenberg, this storehouse was near-bursting with creative goods. Seeing as Aspen was first to publish Roland Barthes’ ‘Death of an Author’ though, perhaps we shouldn’t fawn too much over this roster of artistic revolutionaries. Initially inspired by the ski resort Aspen, content quickly drifted to cover Pop Art, media-made society, postmodern critical theory, London, psychedelia and Asian philosophy.
Arguably the most imaginative, groundbreaking and foolhardy magazine ever produced, Aspen only survived for 10 issues. Near impossible to track down in their original form, the Whitechapel Gallery is currently offering an extremely rare chance to see all ten issues along with fascinating paraphernalia. The complete archives are available online, but if you get the chance, you really ought to see these in the flesh. They just don’t make them like this anymore.
Aspen Magazine: 1965 – 1971 is at the Whitechapel Gallery until March 3.
- Creative director David Lane tells us about redesigning frieze and creating campaigns for Hermés and Ally Capellino
- Photographer Zuza Krajewska's fragile portraits of Polish young offenders
- Anibal Bley’s Risograph zine experiments with glitchy patterns and illustrations
- CG Watkins’ narratively driven photography conveys mystery and escapism
- Sharp Type creates punchy typeface inspired by Swiss designer Adrian Frutiger
- Illustrator Susa Monteiro’s lonely figures battle the elements
- Grope Sans: a very rude typeface by Bompas & Parr
- Japanese graphic designer Ryu Mieno creates type-heavy works fizzing with energy
- The reductive and exacting work of graphic designer Laura Prim
- Why creative education for advertising is stuck in the dark ages
- Leipzig-based graphic designer Anja Kaiser takes us through her portfolio
- Nicolas Jaar releases Network, a book inspired by radio