During the second half of the 1960’s and the first half of the 1970’s, there was a remarkable swell in the occurrence of avant-garde journals, editions, and small press publications. Few were as ambitious as S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) and Aspen. I have discussed S.M.S. in my pieces on the first issue of Terry Riley’s Poppy Nogood and on La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Two Propositions in Black, but beyond posting Spontaneous Sound’s (Christopher Tree) flexi-disc released with Aspen #9, I have yet to mention the latter.
Aspen was very similar to S.M.S. It was made up of unbound editioned artworks curated by theme. It was founded in 1965 by Phyllis Johnson and predates S.M.S by three years. It ran until 1971 and released ten volumes. There was a fair amount of overlap of contributors between the two, but Aspen‘s list is a bit more impressive, reading like a who’s who of the intellectual world of the era – Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, John Cale, Timothy Leary, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, John Cage, Morton Feldman, La Monte Young, Robert Rauschenberg, Hans Richter, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Willem de Kooning, Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Allan Kaprow, Marcel Duchamp, Sol LeWitt, Merce Cunningham, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Roland Barthes, László Moholy-Nagy, Mel Bochner, Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Bill Evans, Philip Glass, Ed Ruscha, J. G. Ballard, and on and on.
I thought it might be nice to begin my series of explorations of Aspen by highlighting one of its more overlooked contributions – Marian Zazeela’s The Soul of the Word pamphlet issued in 1970 with Aspen #9. The penultimate edition was its Psychedelic Issue, and features a beautiful cover designed by Angus Maclise. Zazeela often gets lumped together in her collaborations with her husband La Monte Young, so it’s nice to see her standing on her own away from his shadow. Her pamphlet is a single piece of paper folded and stapled. It features a poetic text (which hopefully you can make out and read in the image), and four drawings. It’s a simple beautiful gesture which I hope you enjoy.
Cover of Aspen #9 (1970) – Designed by Angus Maclise
Aspen #9 (1970) – Viewed Open.
Aspen #9 (1970) – Full Contents
Marian Zazeela – The Soul of the Word, 1970 (front cover)
Marian Zazeela – The Soul of the Word, 1970 (center left panel)
Marian Zazeela – The Soul of the Word, 1970 (center right panel)
Marian Zazeela – The Soul of the Word, 1970 (back cover)
Marian Zazeela – The Soul of the Word, 1970 (open viewing left and right panels)