From the Margins: The Making of Art-Rite
April 21–June 21, 2023

Printed Matter, Inc. is pleased to present From the Margins: The Making of Art-Rite, an exhibition coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the legendary underground arts magazine. Drawn from the archives of editor Edit DeAk, the show traces the early history of Art-Rite through an array of original production materials, much of which is on display for the first time.

About the exhibition

Printed Matter, Inc. is pleased to present From the Margins: The Making of Art-Rite, an exhibition coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the legendary underground arts magazine. Drawn from the archives of editor Edit DeAk, the show traces the early history of Art-Rite through an array of original production materials, much on display here for the first time. The exhibition will be on view at Printed Matter from April 21–June 21, 2023.

Founded in 1973 by Edit DeAk, Walter Robinson and Joshua Cohn, Art-Rite brought a homespun aesthetic to a new generation of arts writing. Across nineteen issues the editors created a space for criticism that was heady and smart, offbeat and irreverent, publishing an energetic mix of artist interviews, statements, exhibition reviews, “loft reviews”, and photo editorials that transcended the interests of typical art journals. As a project, Art-Rite felt collectively summoned and populist, privileging the work and perspectives of artists themselves, and bringing an insider’s view to an emergent downtown arts culture of the mid-70s.

The result was a staple-bound, disposable newsprint arts journal with gravitas that stood in contrast to the glossier and more staid magazines of the era like Artforum, marrying a fanzine ethos and proto-punk aesthetic. Art-Rite’s five-year run was marked by ambitious thematic issues (on Painting, Video, Performance, and Artists’ Books) and single-artist focus issues, charting the richness of de-materialized and alternative art practices, including publications themselves, that emerged out of conceptualism and post-minimalism.

From the Margins presents an extensive first-hand account into the making of Art-Rite, tracing the collaborative ethos and editorial decision-making of the magazine’s early years through various production materials, documentary photographs, ephemera, and original artwork. Anchored by surviving paste-ups (page layouts cut and assembled onto mounting boards), the archive provides a chance to consider early drafts, unrealized directions, and marked-up covers, giving insight into the pre-digital, photo offset process of the time. Through this lens on production, the exhibition considers the cultural moment in which the magazine formed amidst a burgeoning Soho arts scene, as well as the meaning it held for young artists—many of whom identified as “outsiders” to the then-mainstream art world—who found new community in Art-Rite and a space to try out their ideas.

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Dark blue text on a white background reads: From the Margins: The Making of Art-Rite — Exhibition Reception. Friday, May 26  6–8PM. With Walter Robinson and Alan W. Moore at Printed Matter (231 11th Ave)

Exhibition Reception

Join us on Friday, May 26 (6–8PM) for the belated reception of From the Margins: The Making of Art-Rite. Founding editor Walter Robinson will give a short monologue on the magazine, followed by a recollection from writer and contributing editor Alan W. Moore. Light refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

A selection of original materials on view:

The Origins of Art-Rite

Edit DeAk, Walter “Mike” Robinson, and Joshua Cohn first met in 1972 as senior year students at Columbia University during an art criticism seminar taught by critic Brian O’Doherty. O’Doherty, then the Editor of Art in America, was impressed by the group and approached the three about writing reviews for the magazine, to which Edit later noted “I thought, aestheticism must be in trouble if they want baby blood.”

In that moment, the idea of starting their own magazine took shape, and they pitched the concept of a newsprint supplement to be distributed within Art in America itself. When this idea didn’t take off with the magazine, Edit, Walter and Joshua decided they would produce a publication of their own.

On graduation from Columbia, the three editors were accepted to the 1972–73 class of the Whitney Independent Study Program as part of the Art History / Museum Studies Program. Robinson later noted that while the program is now very competitive, it wasn’t as structured at the time, and hadn’t yet formally included critics: “I think we just ushered ourselves right in, fit in between the art historians and the artists.” The trio honed their criticism skills with the goal of producing a magazine as their course project, and early Art-Rite took shape — all while enmeshing themselves in a community of artists and writers who would help shape a downtown arts culture, and become future contributors to the magazine.

1970s SoHo and the Art-Rite Loft

After graduation, Edit moved downtown with Peter Grass into an enormous loft space on the eighth floor of 149 Wooster Street, just south of Houston Street. Walter moved in not too long after. At 3,500 square feet, the loft was large enough that the group could live in just a small portion of the apartment — the rest held Peter’s expansive painting studio, a darkroom, and enough open space for parties, roller-skating, marathon performance events, screenings, and the office workspace for the production of Art-Rite.

While SoHo and TriBeCa had previously served as a hub for the activity by Fluxus artists who staged performances and events in lofts and galleries, beginning in the early 70s a new wave of artists began to see the possibilities of the affordable, vacant properties which offered enough room for live/work studio spaces. Galleries and alternative art venues increasingly began to appear, and the neighborhood became the center of a blossoming downtown arts scene, situated among the vestiges of its industrial past.

Read more about this era of the New York art scene in a transcribed conversation between Walter Robinson, Pat Steir, Robin Winters, and Carlo McCormick (2019).

Production Paste-Ups

While much of the creation of Art-Rite was done from Edit’s loft on Wooster Street, Walter also took advantage of his access to office space at the Jewish Week newspaper, where he had taken a job as a Production Manager. The role gave him familiarity with typesetting, layout and getting a publication to press, as well as unsupervised use of equipment and borrowed type.

The original paste-ups on view (or “mechanicals”) show the important and laborious preliminary steps in the photo offset-printing process. Each page of an issue was manually created with sourced images (which needed to be reproduced to scale and often converted to half-tone) and long columns of typed texts, which were cut up and laid out across multiple columns before being glued to a mounting boarding. Once finalized, these paste-ups were deemed “camera-ready” and photographed by a large format table-top camera, producing a negative. This negative, also called a photostat, was developed at the same scale of the magazine page, and then sent to the printers to create offset printing plates.

Coverage of the Uncovered

Art-Rite’s editorial perspective was self-characterized as “coverage of the uncovered,” a notion that informed all facets of the magazine, across its writing, design, and photography. The containment and categorization strategies necessitated by commercial structures were rejected in favor of collaboration, engaging conversation, and the energetic movement of disorderly art at the fringes. Art-Rite welcomed coverage of topics like fashion and music, presenting them as naturally in conversation with visual art. In their “loft reviews,” the editors wrote about artists’ studios and work still in-progress. Photography by Peter Grass and Yuri, Edit’s cousin, offered compelling, first-hand documentation of the worlds the magazine was a part of.

Contributor Alan Moore writes, “Art-Rite was very personal. It was based in a kind of love. Messy, colloquial, very smart but “unserious.” As a magazine, Art-Rite was an outlier in the landscape of art journals of the time (and since). It didn’t seem to have anything to prove, no position to defend. Art-Rite was closer to a kind of art fanzine, with its odd slangy commercial name.” Read more of Alan’s essay here.

Thematic Issues

Among Art-Rite’s most ambitious projects were four thematic issues that offered roving investigations into ascendant art practices of the mid-1970s. Art-Rite was well positioned to provide an on-the-ground account of these activities, covering both new approaches in traditional mediums like painting, as well as New Media and non-material practice. The themes of these issues were Video (no. 7), Painting (no. 9) Performance (no. 10), and Artists’ Books (no. 14).

Among the most legendary of entries in Art-Rite’s history was “Market Research,” the idea poll from issue no. 14, which solicited unedited statements on artists’ books from fifty artists and art professionals. The prompt called for a range of opinions on the ‘difficulties’ and ‘best potentials’ of the rapidly-developing medium, stating, “The collective quality of these statements functions as the most basic and genuine definition of artists’ books.”

Including the singular voices of many significant figures in the field (Kathy Acker, Lucy Lippard, Ulises Carrión, Agnes Denes, Adrian Piper, Sol LeWitt, and many others), the responses are a complex record of connected and conflicting visions, personal statements both glib and sincere, impassioned critiques, and probing propositions for the future potential of the medium.

Artist Covers

The cover artwork for Art-Rite no. 8 was contributed by artist Pat Steir. The design featured black line drawings of three roses, hand-stamped with ink in yellow, red and blue. To keep costs low, the editors carved potatoes to the shape of the rose, manually inking and printing the stamps as many times as they could withstand before deteriorating. The issue was printed in an edition of 2,000 copies (a total of 6,000 rose imprints), created by the editors and the help of friends. Edit later recounted how the covers of the issue were spread across the entirety of her SoHo loft as “a field of flowers.” Walter joked about the time-intensive experience, “You know, you didn’t really have anything [else] to do anyway.”

A conversation on Art-Rite magazine and artists in Soho, NYC, 1973-1978

Artists and Art-Rite contributors Pat Steir and Robin Winters join editor Walter Robinson in a discussion about the founding and early history of Art-Rite magazine, and explore artists in 1970s Soho. Moderated by writer and critic Carlo McCormick.

Art-Rite Back Then and Beyond by Alan W. Moore

A new text from artist and writer Alan W. Moore reflecting on his experience of Art-Rite as a contributor and friend.

Art-Rite facsimile edition

In 2019, Printed Matter & Primary Information co-published a facsimile edition of Art-Rite that collects the full run of the magazine (twenty issues) in a single volume spanning 678 pages.

Thank Yous & Exhibition Support

Thank you to the Estate of Edit DeAk, Daniel Csutkai, Walter Robinson, Les Levine, Judy Rifka and online Gallery 98. This project partially draws from Primary Information’s work on the Art-Rite collected facsimile (2019).

This exhibition is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts.