Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Art Magazines, Well Off the Margins

In an era of blogging and online content, it seems almost anachronistic to talk about the state of contemporary art publishing in the present day. But several magazines, many regionally focused, are breathing life into a communications form that seems determined to provide both value and energy to the contemporary art world.

Three of my favorite art magazines at the moment are Art Papers, edited by Sylvie Fortin; Pitch: Kentucky Arts and Culture, edited by Scott Rogers; and ArtUS, edited and published by Paul Foss.

Of the three, ArtUS has the longest history, although many readers may know it in its previous incarnation, Art and Text. Formerly based in Sydney, this publication has always been committed to an interrogation of the intersections of contemporary theory filtered through the lenses of both high and low art. Its editor has also translated key texts on theorists such as the late Jean Baudrillard. Now based in Los Angeles, ArtUS brings the same insouciance to the art world that Art and Text illustrated for so many years.

Art Papers, under the editorship of Sylvie Fortin, has changed both its physical layout and its editorial focus. Its reviews are broadly based and wide-ranging, focusing on exhibitions from the deep south to the wide north. Fortin is committed to articles and scholarly essays by writers from across the range of fields, from theorists to practitioners. Its current issue explore recent manifestations of the Istanbul Biennial and the 6th Bienal do Mercosul. What is evident is that Fortin perceives the contemporary art world as “flat” geographically and interdependent politically and culturally. As a result, her emphases tend towards exploring events and geographies that are merely thoughts for many of her readers. This leads to the belief that Atlanta, as a major metropolitan city, with a diverse arts community and strong collectors and educators, can also slip from margin to center in the discourses of contemporary art.

One of the more intriguing, though likely less well-known magazines at the moment is Pitch: Kentucky Arts and Culture. Both pigeonholed by its surtitle and, in a sense, exalted by it, this magazine, under the editorship of Scott Rogers, highlights the interrelatedness in the contemporary arts. Not merely a document of the visual arts, Jones and his writers range across the field of contemporary visual practices, from dance to design, from literature to performance. The layout of the magazine is luscious, as is the paper. As a result, Pitch is as much an art object itself as it is a chronicle of the practices it explores. The Winter 2008 issue examines the works of the Wau Wau Sisters, the works of Flavia da Rin, and the theatrical explorations of Marc Masterson and the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

In an era in which culture is consumed in bitstreams, publications such as Art Papers, ArtUS and Pitch provide an alternative voice – no less valuable – than many of the ‘household’ publications of contemporary visual culture that many of us list as the harbingers of our day.

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