TEN YEARS AGO

Here’s a scan of the cover of one of the last copies we have of Arthur No. 2, published ten years ago right about now…

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It’s a pretty weird issue of the mag — to my eyes, it doesn’t quite hang together editorially, a fault completely my own — but whatever, it might of interest to some folks ten years on. Here’s a list of the contents:

Arthur No. 2 (December 2002)
Color/black and white, 48 pages, newsprint, 11.5 x 14, quarterfold

The West Coast premiere of the Velvet Underground and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, in 1966? Lenny Bruce and Anita O’Day waiting to score? James Baldwin, Marlon Brando, the Black Panther Party and other good-souled political activists doing what needed to be done? CHARLES BRITTIN was there, and these are his never-before-published photographs, as curated for Arthur’s readers by KRISTINE MCKENNA.

He plays guitar and he writes/sings songs like you’ve never heard. He’s also 21 and has got a certain elfish charm. Ladies and germs, DEVENDRA BANHART, as witnessed by scribe GABE SORIA and shutterbug SHAWN MORTENSEN.

Depressed? Hair falling out at age 23? Having sex with your cousin? “I know all about that stuff!” says Arthur’s new advice columnist, 78-year-old bluesperson T-MODEL FORD.

Language as incantation, the art of the cut-up, larval culture, neural re-wiring and what does it feel like to live in a post-authorship world: all in a Sunday afternoon’s teatime with visionary artist-provocateur-human GENESIS P-ORRIDGE and hotshit media theorist DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF. Photos by SHAWN MORTENSEN.

In an exclusive excerpt from his new autobiography, legendary Brazilian musician CAETANO VELOSO takes us to the political, cultural and hallucinogenic frontlines of authoritarian Brazil, 1968. It’s all here: tanks, ayahuasca, street protests, witchcraft cults, and of course, Veloso’s fellow Tropicalistas, the musicians Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Os Mutantes.

Self-described desk-bound journalist SUE CARPENTER finds out firsthand and feet-first how women are transforming the 21st-century circus. With photographs by LAUREN KLAIN.

Plus: Comics by Kevin Huizenga, Jordan Crane, Anders Nilsen and James Kochalka, and a drawing by Sammy Harkham.

Britwit-novelist STEVE AYLETT revisits the legend of pulp fictionist/”rogue maniac” Jeff Lint, author of One Less Bastard and creator of The Caterer

“Bull Tongue” columnists Byron Coley & Thurston Moore sort the pepper from the bugpoop in underground recordings, performance, poetry and text.

Peter “Piper” Relic remembers JAM MASTER JAY.

Some thoughts on the issue for those keeping score at home — hopefully completely accurate, but it’s ten years, and there’s probably been some memory loss, so be gentle with me if I screw something up here.

This was our second issue. The first issue had done alright. We’d printed 70,000 copies. The printer had folded them the wrong way, which while embarrassing, wasn’t catastrophic, since we’d put the logo at the top of the reverse side (don’t ask). Anyways, less than one week before we went to press with this issue, our old printer told us that our agreement with them would not be honored. They told us they wanted to get out of the quarterfold newsprint business. My partner, publisher Laris Kreslins, scrambled and found a new printer in time for us to not miss our deadline for No. 2. We abandoned the double-cover concept we’d used for Arthur No. 1, which was borrowed from the original format of Rolling Stone, and made it to press.

But finding a new printer at the last moment was only the last of many hurdles in getting this issue out. Ad sales were somewhat lower than the first issue, which, although predictable — second issues are often a harder sell than the big premiere issue, where you can count on a bit of goodwill — was somewhat dispiriting. It made us wonder if we were deluding ourselves that this Arthur thing really had a chance of working, given that it was going in the wrong direction so quickly.

On the editorial end, which I was in charge of, we’d had a major problem, beyond being completely budgetless: the Eddie Dean-penned cover feature on the photography of country music enthusiast Leon Kagarise for this issue, which had been prepared months in advance, had to be pulled near the last moment because… Well, just because. That cover feature didn’t end up running ’til Arthur No. 32, the issue that was to go to press in December 2008, but never made it due to the severe economic contraction that fall…which was the final blow to Arthur in its first incarnation. (You can read Arthur No. 32 by downloading it as a two-part PDF. Click here for info.) Something about that piece did not want to see print in Arthur.

With the Eddie Dean feature delayed to who knows when, we had nothing in hand that seemed—to me, at least—like a cover feature for the issue in front of us. In hindsight, I can see that the Douglas Rushkoff-Genesis P-Orridge conversation was cover-worthy…although we didn’t really have the right kind of photos on hand to make that a cover… And I really liked the interview and photos we’d got with this kid Devendra Banhart — it was apparently the first or second interview he’d ever done in his life—but we couldn’t make him the big cover feature, he was just starting out… So…

Enter the great veteran journalist Kristine McKenna, whose work I’d been reading since I was 14 or 15. For a golden period in the ’80s, Kristine was writing regularly for the Los Angeles Times, covering all the interesting musicians, fine artists, cartoonists, performers and art-thinkers who were there to be interviewed at the time. I devoured anything with her byline; she got the best conversations out of the most provocative people (seriously: see the two collections of her interviews published by Fantagraphics—the list of interviewees is just absurd), and her reviews of records and live performances both exposed me to work I wasn’t aware of and showed me why it was of import or at least worthy of interest. I didn’t see her byline much in the ’90s, and although I’d started writing for the LAWeekly and getting around just a bit in LA cultural circles, our paths never crossed. I wasn’t even sure she was still in L.A.

So. It wasn’t until 2000, when I was working on a feature for Mojo on Black Flag’s pre-Henry Rollins era, that I came in contact with Kristine. I am not sure who gave me her phone number, although I think it may have been Brendan Mullen (RIP). I was looking to talk to an L.A.-based music journalist who wasn’t overly involved in the hardcore scene who could offer some perspective on how Black Flag were regarded in their early days from outside. Kristine seemed like she would fit the bill. I called her, we met, she was extremely generous with her time and ideas, and we became fellow freelancer/comrades, with me of course very much in the extreme junior position. We stayed in touch. In late 2002, when I told her I’d lost the cover for Arthur’s second issue, she had an idea.

Why not cover Charles Brittin, she asked?

Charles (who has since died) was a semi-professional L.A. photographer who had spent much of his life photographing extraordinary scenes that he was involved in, the most exciting being L.A’s avant garde scene of the mid-to-late ’50s (principally around Wallace Berman and his circle) and the social activist period of the ’60s. He had tons of unpublished photos that were just incredible: Lenny Bruce in his prime, the Velvet Underground & Nico onstage in Hollywood, the Black Panthers in action, Marlon Brando at a street protest, CORE members picketing next to white supremacists… and then, Anita O’Day, and Rachel Rosenthal… Art director WT Nelson went nuts when he started seeing what Kristine had found, and with good reason.

For me, the clincher was a wide-angle photo that Charles had taken of an endless sea of marchers, many of them G.I.’s, protesting the Vietnam War on April 4, 1969, right here in Los Angeles, on Wilshire Boulevard near Virgil. Please keep in mind that his was late 2002: America was preparing to invade Iraq. Anti-war sentiment barely existed outside of the usual peacelover/refusenik circles. We decided to run this photograph as a double-page spread, as a centerfold — a de facto poster, available to anyone who wanted it, since Arthur was distributed free of charge. Maybe it would play a small part in helping inspire and encourage people to stand up to these war creeps.

It wasn’t much, we knew, but it was what was available to us. So, we went for it. That was our centerfold, and what the heck, Charles Brittin was our cover.

Thank you, Kristine McKenna!

For those interested in learning more about Charles Brittin and his work, check out Charles Brittin: West and South, a hardcover monograph edited by Kristine and others that was published on the occasion of a 2011 retrospective at the Michael Kohn Gallery.

This issue of Arthur Magazine is available from the Arthur Store for $5 while supplies last. Click here for info.

2010 Arthur Magazine Gift-Giving Guide, approximately


Here’s a short list of recent gift-worthy work by folks who have either contributed to Arthur through the years, or been covered in the magazine. Promotional text for each item is in quotes, with order links at the end of each item’s entry, as close to the source as we could find. This list is not meant to be definitive—just some stuff that’s caught our attention recently that we thought Arthur folk might dig…

THE BEAUTIFUL & THE DAMNED: Punk Photographs by Ann Summa
Edited with an introduction by Kristine McKenna
Foreword by Exene Cervenka
Foggy Notion Books/Smart Art Press
Hbk, 9.25 x 12.25 in. / 112 pgs
“When photographer Ann Summa arrived in Los Angeles in 1978, the city’s punk scene was still fresh, diverse, smart, utterly original—and fertile territory for a young photographer. The Beautiful & the Damned is a collection of her portraits of the musicians, artists and fans who made Los Angeles such a crucial part of the history of punk. Taken between 1978 and 1984, the images mostly revolve around L.A.’s first punk generation, and include portraits of the Germs, the Screamers, X, the Cramps and the Gun Club, among many others. From there, the book expands its scope to accommodate the cross-pollination that took place between L.A.’s punk scene and the fine art community, (at the time, the audience for avant-garde artists such as the Kipper Kids, Johanna Went and Laurie Anderson was primarily drawn from the underground music scene), and the two other cities—London and New York—that played a central role in the birthing of punk. Photographed during their first U.S. tours are U.K. groups the Clash, Magazine, the Fall, the Slits, Bow Wow Wow and the Pretenders, among others. Visiting dignitaries from New York include Television, James Chance, Lydia Lunch and Talking Heads. Also included are portraits of artists who served as an inspiration to L.A. punks—Captain Beefheart, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, among others—plus candid shots of unidentified audience members. Includes 95 previously unpublished images.”

From the introduction…
“Everyone knows that punk rock is rude. What’s less known is that during its first incarnation in Los Angeles, during the late 70s, it was ecstatically beautiful. At that point mainstream culture hadn’t yet detected the scent of money on this newly-born music, and punk hadn’t yet been hijacked by adolescent boys bent on transforming themselves into human cannonballs. Punk was an intimate affair then. Nobody was watching or judging that original band of outsiders, because there was no money to be made, and nothing much to be won or lost at all. There was no reason for those people not to cast off the rules that had governed their world up until that point. And so they cast off the old rules, and made themselves a new world that was entirely their own. And, for a brief, glorious period they operated in a zone of complete freedom.
“The taste of freedom can be startling — you can see that in the faces of many of the people who appear in these pictures. They were surprised to find their tribe — surprised to discover they actually had a tribe. Surprised to learn they could be themselves and be embraced for it. Surprised to find they could create beauty, and live without the comforts of the middle-class homes they came from. What made all of this possible was the simple fact of community. Most L.A. punks of the late 70s were poor, many were high a lot of the time, and everyone was a little crazy. Nonetheless, they supported and shared with one another, and they saw the brilliance in each other.”
$39.95
Info: http://www.beautifulandthedamned.com/book.html
Buy: http://www.artbook.com/9781935202271.html

HOW TO WRECK A NICE BEACH: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop—The Machine Speaks
by Dave Tompkins

Stop Smiling Books
Color, 336 pages
“The history of the vocoder: how the Pentagon’s speech scrambling weapon transformed into the robot voice of pop music. How to Wreck a Nice Beach includes interviews with:
Afrika Bambaataa, Ray Bradbury, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, Peter Frampton, Laurie Anderson, T-Pain, Teddy Riley, DJ Quik, ELO, Rammellzee, Arthur Baker, Michael Jonzun, Midnight Star, Lester Troutman of Zapp, Holger Czukay of Can, Donnie Wahlberg, Egyptian Lover, Fab Five Freddy, Forrest J. Ackerman, Man Parrish, Cybotron and Wendy Carlos, composer of A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
”
$25.00 ($10 off the cover price)
Info/blog: http://howtowreckanicebeach.com/
Buy: http://www.stopsmilingstore.com/howtowreckanicebeach.aspx

SPELL TO DRAW YOUR TRUE LOVE
by Dame Darcy

“This multimedia pink 3 ½ in. doll cake is really a little round box containing pink powder puff and magnetism glitter body powder to puff over your skin after bathing. Rose love potion bubble bath, Mini-Chalice, instructions for moon water and a magic wand for stirring your bath. Draw your true love to you now and forever!”
$35
Info/buy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/63883739/love-doll-cake-spell-draw-your-true-love

SMITHEREENS
by Steve Aylett

Scar Garden Press
122 pages
“Collects 19 stories including ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’, the prophetic ‘Download Syndrome’, ‘The Burnished Adventures of Injury Mouse’, the full text of ‘Voyage of the Iguana’, the last ever Beerlight story ‘Specter’s Way’, ‘Horoscope’, and the closest thing Aylett has ever written to a traditional SF story, ‘Bossanova’ (featuring a robot and two spaceships!) There are also animal-attack-while-writing reminiscences in ‘Evernemesi’ and top-of-the-line declarative bitterness in ‘On Reading New Books’. Snails, whales and cortical drills. Aylett’s last collection.”
$9.55
Info: http://www.steveaylett.com
Buy: Amazon

SWEET TOMB
by Trinie Dalton

Madras Press
Paperback
104pp.
“The story of Candy, a candy-addicted witch who resents her inherited lifestyle. After a fire burns down her gingerbread house, she leaves the forest and ventures out in search of the excitement of a more urban environment. Along the way she encounters a self-mutilating puppet, tastes meat for the first time, and falls in love with Death, a skeletal woman with a shoe fetish. Proceeds benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation.”
$7
Trinie Dalton blog: http://sweet-tomb.blogspot.com/
Info/buy: http://www.madraspress.com/bookstore/sweet-tomb

BLOOD SPORT: THE LOUISIANA COCKFIGHTERS MANUAL
by Stacy Kranitz

Square 80 pgs Premium Paper, lustre finish
Cultural ethnography by photojournalist Stacy Kranitz.
Hardcover with dustjacket, $100
Stacy Kranitz: http://www.stacykranitz.com/
Preview/buy: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1752353

PURE COUNTRY: The Leon Kagarise Archives, 1961-1971
Text by Eddie Dean
Process Media
9.5” x 9.5” • 204 pages • 140 Color images
“Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of country music’s biggest stars played their favorite shows on the small backwoods stages of rural America’s outdoor music parks. These intimate, $1-a-carload picnic concerts might have been forgotten if it hadn’t been for the documenting eye of music lover Leon Kagarise, whose candid photographs of the musicians and their fans provide the only surviving window into this long-vanished world. Kagarise captured dozens of classic country and bluegrass artists in their prime, including Johnny Cash and June Carter, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, The Stanley Brothers, and many other greats. Pure Country presents this collection of rare color images for the first time, revealing an archive considered by historian Charles Wolfe to be one of the richest discoveries in the history of American music. Foreword by Robert Gordon.”
$35.00
Preview/buy: http://processmediainc.com/store/books/pure_country.php

DEFEND BROOKLYN by Dave Reeves
“We have all your favorite colors, as long as your favorite color is black.”
$24 tshirt, $40 hoodie
Info/buy: http://defendbrooklyn.com/

ENVISIONING SUSTAINABILITY by Peter Berg
Subculture Books
208 pages
“A collection of the important essays that helped define the bioregional movement and established Berg as an icon in the environmental community. Spans three decades of Berg’s life work, combines the candor, humor and vision that helped shape the sustainability revolution.” Don’t let the unfortunate cover throw you off. This has some classic San Francisco Diggers-era Berg pieces from now-unobtainable broadsides and posters in addition to the aforementioned pivotal bioregionalist texts.
Paperback $11.69, Kindle Edition $8.99
Buy: Amazon

MAKE A TERRARIUM IN AN OLD LIGHTBULB
Informational video: Arthur blog

NOMAD CODES: Adventures in Modern Esoterica by Erik Davis
Yeti Verse Chorus Press
352 pages
“In these wide-ranging essays, Erik Davis explores the codes—spiritual, cultural, and embodied—that people use to escape the limitation of their lives and to enrich their experience of the world. These include Asian religious traditions and West African trickster gods, Western occult and esoteric lore, postmodern theory and psychedelic science, as well as festival scenes such as Goa trance and Burning Man. Articles on media technology further explore themes Davis took up in his acclaimed book Techgnosis, while his profiles of West Coast poets, musicians, and mystics extend the California terrain he previously mapped in The Visionary State. Whether his subject is collage art or the ‘magickal realism’ of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, transvestite Burmese spirit mediums or Ufology, tripster king Terence McKenna or dub maestro Lee Perry, Davis writes with keen yet skeptical sympathy, intellectual subtlety and wit, and unbridled curiosity, which is why Peter Lamborn Wilson calls him ‘the best of all guides to modern American spirituality.’ Cover artwork by Fred Tomaselli.”
$17.95
Buy: http://www.buyolympia.com/q/Item=erik-davis-nomad-codes

HOWLIN’ RAIN “The Good Life” EP
Birdman/American
Ethan Miller from Comets On Fire’s other, earthier acid rock band. Features two originals sandwiching a daring cover of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”
$2.97
Preview/buy: iTunes

TED LUCAS “Ted Lucas”
Yoga
Beautiful wise hippie folk music from 1974.
cd $12
Preview/buy: http://yogarecords.com/artists/tedlucas/

IASOS “Realms of Light” dvd
Inter-Dimensional Music
“Iasos has created heavenly visuals to accompany the celestial music on his Realms of Light album. There are visuals for all 8 pieces on the music cd. The visuals are synced with the music with delightful precision. Like the music, some of the visuals are stimulating, and some are relaxing. And all are heavenly, uplifting, beautiful, and celestial. It took Iasos 4 years to learn video special-effects, and then another 3.5 years to actually create the 65 minutes of visuals to go with this music. But finally, here it is! Underlying Purpose: Music is capable of inducing Divine Emotions. Visuals are capable of inducing Divine Thought-Forms. When these two work together synchronistically & synergistically,their combined influence can trigger or “ignite” expanded States of Being. THAT is the Intention behind this DVD.”
$22
Preview/buy: http://iasos.com/detalist/rol-dvd/

EARTH ”A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction”
Southern Lord
“For the first time the debut recordings of Earth are available in one concise, beautifully documented capsule. All 7 tracks have been carefully remastered by Mell Dettmer to make a more burly, mammoth and crushing audio experience. Includes liner notes from Dylan Carlson with artwork by Simon Fowler and package design via Stephen O’Malley.”
CD $10, 2xLp $18
Preview/buy: http://blog.southernlord.com/?p=297

ROTARY SIGNAL EMITTER 12-inch picture disk LP by Sculpture
Not even sure if these are even still available—they only made 300 of them—but…gee whiz. Coolest low-cost audio/art object since the Buddha Machine? Yes.
Preview/info: Arthur blog

2011 calendar and poster by RON REGE, JR.
Little Otsu
“Experience the mind-blowing combination of colors and drawings that make up this incredible 2011 fold-out calendar & poster by the talented Ron Regé, Jr. On the calendar side, the amazing devolving drawings form a comic-like linear backdrop to the twinkly bars of dimensional months. Turn it over to find a detailed panoramic scene of hot-air balloons and mountains and lands surrounding a giant inverted triangle of “abracadabra” magic. So at the end of the year, you can flip over the calendar and still have a great poster to hang on your wall, giving this calendar a second life.
Measures 8” wide x 9” tall folded and 24” wide by 18” tall when unfolded. Printed in Hayward, CA with vegetable-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled 80# cover stock.”
$12.00 USD
flat poster (limited ed. of 50) for $16.00 USD
Preview/buy: http://shop.littleotsu.com/products/2011-calendar-poster-by-ron-rege-jr

“THROUGH THE PSYCHEDELIC LOOKING GLASS” calendar by JOHN COULTHART
“A full colour calendar comprising all-new artwork in a psychedelic interpretation of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there. The 1860s collide with the 1960s in lurid efflorescence!”
£15.00
Preview/buy: http://www.johncoulthart.com/pantechnicon/lookingglass.html

2011 AUTONOMEDIA JUBILEE SAINTS calendar
32 pages, 12 x 16 inches, saddle stitched
“Hundreds of radical cultural and political heroes are celebrated here, along with the animating ideas that continue to guide this project – a reprieve from the 500-year-long sentence to life-at-hard-labor that the European colonization of the “New World” and the ensuing devastations of the rest of the world has represented. The Planetary Work Machine will not rule forever! Celebrate with this calendar on which every day is a holiday!
$9.95 / Pay for two, and we will send a third calendar for free!”
Preview/buy: bookstore.autonomedia.org

PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE’S GALACTIC ZOO MIX TAPE CLUB 2011
“Plastic Crimewave, creator of the Galactic Zoo Dossier magazine for Drag City, proprietor of the Galactic Zoo Disk reissue label, leader of spacepunkers Plastic Crimewave Sound, and general music historian/head has reached the end of the fifth consecutive year of his Galactic Zoo Mix Tape Club, and will be taking subscriptions again with another year of Mix Tape-age starting in December. You get six 90 min. tapes (one every other month) with exclusive artwork and the sounds of rare and populist psychedelia, glam, acid folk, prog, boogie, power pop, soft rock, shoegaze, protopunk, hard rawk, experimental, bubblegum, etc. for a mere $30.”
Info: Arthur blog
Paypal at plasticcw@hotmail.com, or send a check or cash to 1061 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622.

BLACKOUT Arthur mixtape
49-minute compilation curated and sequenced by Arthur editor Jay Babcock to stimulate or simulate a sweet blackout, featuring music by Moon Duo, White Hills, White Noise Sound, Lords of Falconry, Endless Boogie , Masters of Reality, Messages and Enumclaw. Mixed by Bobby Tamkin (Xu Xu Fang), with cover artwork by Arik Moonhawk Roper. All proceeds go to Arthur Magazine. Pay-what-thou-wilt digital download starting at $4.20…
Preview/buy: http://arthurmag.com/blackout/

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON ARTHURING
A tax-deductible donation of any amount may be made to Arthur by going here: http://www.arthurmag.com/donate/

Happy season,

The Arthur Goofs
Austin * Marfa * Joshua Tree * Portland, Oregon * Greenpoint * wherever you are

One from the Desert Files: NOAH PURIFOY

Originally published in Arthur No. 11 (2004) (available from the Arthur Store), with photography by W.T. Nelson…

NOAH’S ART
When artist Noah Purifoy died this past March, he left behind a remarkable desert masterwork.

by Kristine McKenna

Noah Purifoy was born in Snow Hill Alabama in 1917. By the time he died this past March in a fire at his home in Joshua Tree, California, he’d traveled many roads and re-invented himself several times.

For a Southern black man of Purifoy’s generation, being an artist wasn’t a readily available option, but Purifoy was a man of remarkable vision and patience. It wasn’t until he was 48 years old that he really got rolling as an artist, but by the time he died 38 years later he’d created a body of work of formidable power. Purifoy was a populist artist, a Surrealist, and a sculptor, and his masterpiece is a parcel of land in Joshua Tree which he landscaped with dozens of massive assemblages. Fashioned largely from scavenged materials, this dazzling environment was created without the help of assistants or interns; Purifoy was a lone wolf, and it was his joy to wake before sunrise and work in the early morning hours under an open sky, before the heat of the day settled in.

The tenth in a family of 13 children, Purifoy was the child of farmers who lived in Birmingham from 1920 until 1929, when they resettled in Cleveland. At the age of 22 Purifoy earned a teaching credential, but his teaching career was interrupted by World War II, which prompted him to enlist in the army in 1942. He was stationed in the South Pacific for three years, and after returning from the war, he earned a master’s degree in social work. He then landed a job at the Cuyahoga County Department of Social Services in Cleveland, where he worked from 1950 to 1952.

Purifoy passed through Los Angeles during the war and he’d always had a hankering to return, so in 1952 he relocated to Southern California. He spent the next two years doing social work at an L.A. county hospital, but the work didn’t suit him. In 1954 he enrolled at Chouinard Art Institute, where he earned a degree in 1956, and he spent the next eight years working in various capacities as an interior designer.

In 1964 Purifoy’s interest in civil rights led him to collaborate with musician Judson Powell and educator Sue Welch in the creation of the Watts Towers Art Center, a community outreach program in South-Central L.A. The next year he found himself in the eye of the hurricane of America’s racial conflict when the Watts riots erupted outside his door. It was at this point that Purifoy finally found his voice and sense of purpose as an artist; Purifoy scavenged three tons of material from the ashes of the Watts uprising and used them to create “66 Signs of Neon,” a massive group show of works created from the Watts’ debris that traveled to nine university galleries from 1966 through 1969.

The show was deemed an enormously successful marriage of art and social protest, but Purifoy found the politics of the art world distasteful, and in 1970 he turned his back on art altogether. Seventeen years later Purifoy’s longtime friend, artist Debbie Brewer, offered him permanent lodging on the land she owned in Joshua Tree, and it was then that Purifoy again felt the itch to make things.

I visited Purifoy at his place in Joshua Tree in August of 1995, and I remember my morning with him fondly. I arrived at sunup and we spent a few hours roaming the land, while Purifoy mused on the marvelous sculptures that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. By 10:30 it was time to get out of the sun and we retreated to the seriously air-conditioned mobile home where Purifoy lived. He prepared lunch, which is to say, he removed nearly everything from his refrigerator, set it all on a small card table, and offered it to his guest. He was a generous and gracious host. I assembled a sandwich, he poured himself a glass of wine, and we talked for a while. These are a few things he told me.

CHILDHOOD
As a child I wasn’t conscious of racism, but I was aware something was going on. Once, when I was five, my mother was taking me to the store and there was a parade in the street. People had hoods on, and when I asked my mother what was happening she said, “That’s the Ku Klux Klan.”

I had good parents who tried to protect me from the trauma they knew I’d encounter soon enough, and they encouraged me to go to school. So in 1939 I earned a teaching credential—not because I wanted to be a teacher, but because that was the only thing accessible to me then. I majored in history and social studies but never taught either—I ended up teaching shop at a school in Montgomery, Alabama.

FROM SOCIAL WORK INTO ART
In the early ‘50s all my friends were social workers and they were horrible people. They thought they owned the earth because they doled out a few dollars to poor people, so one day I just up and quit. Later that same day I was driving and I happened to pass Chouinard Art Institute, and I dropped in and told them I wanted to enroll. This wasn’t something I’d been thinking about – I went in totally on a whim, but they admitted me because I was colored.

I was the worst student in the whole school. I refused to draw, because I felt that I had something and that if I learned to draw I’d be dead because I’d end up making oil paintings, which wasn’t what I was after. I’ve never been satisfied with little things that hang on the wall and I wanted to find my own way in art. I wasn’t making art then but I was posing as an artist. I wore a beret and spent lots of time drinking wine, eating cheese, listening to music and talking to people, and didn’t take any of it too seriously. I was seriously concerned about civil rights though, and I had a dialogue going with some people who shared my feelings about change that had to come.

THE WATTS UPRISING
I was in the middle of it but I wasn’t afraid. I thought it was great because it was overdue and it turned out to be a goldmine for me. I collected three tons of debris from the riot and began making art out of it. I was searching for my own idea and had been studying the Dada movement and how it had reversed the whole concept of art, and the debris from the riot is what finally launched me on my own course. From 1965 to ’69 I made lots of work, and I sold it as fast as I could make it. I was also reading philosophy then and was knocked out by [Martin] Heidegger and [Edmund] Husserl. I was looking for methods of problem solving because I had lots of problems, and I was able to alter my behavior because of those two philosophers. They were great thinkers who went into areas most people dare not go.

DROPPING OUT
I dropped out of the art world because I was disappointed in art. I perceived art as a tool for change, and when I started the program in Watts I saw art as a potential savior. But the dropout population there increased rather than decreased, and the art I was making started to become formulaic and too easy. I was never interested in earning a lot of money. I wanted art to be a means of answering questions like ‘what is growth?’ ‘What is change?’ Life isn’t worth living unless the individual is pushing to understand more, and art stopped being useful to me in that pursuit.

THE WORK
A lot of the stuff I use to make artwork I buy from a recycling place near here and it’s a horrendous cost—I spend a lot of money on materials. In 1994 a local paper ran a story on me, so I also get lots of calls from people who say ‘I’m cleaning out my garage. Why don’t you bring a truck over and take what you want?’

There’s no ecological message behind my use of recycled materials—I use them because that’s what’s available to me. People occasionally comment on how hard it must it must be living out in the desert by myself, but this is a breeze compared to many things I’ve been through. The most difficult period of my life was when I was a young adult. I was raised in the church and as a teenager I found myself in conflict about sex and religion. I gave up religion—and leaving the church didn’t hurt me at all.

DEATH
Sometimes I wish I had a savior because I don’t know what happens after death, but I do know I don’t believe in heaven. I recently made a series of works called ‘Desert Tombstones,’ and while I was working on them I thought a lot about death. It’s been said that if you don’t accept death as an equal part of existence you’re in for trouble somewhere down the line. I’d never given much thought to any of this because I thought I’d live forever, but I’ve come to realize that’s not the case. That may have something to do with why I push myself so hard now to finally get the work out that’s always been in me.

Noah Purifoy: http://www.noahpurifoy.com/

There’s a limited supply: Arthur No. 3 (pub’d Feb 2003) aka THE JOE STRUMMER WAKE ISSUE

arthur3cover

We’ve got 50 copies left of Arthur No. 3 (cover date March 2003, pub’d February, 2003). This one’s from the original incarnation (read: best) of Arthur—the pages are gigantic (11×17) and the paper is reasonably high-quality newsprint. Some color, some b/w. We’re selling our remaining stock for $5 each over at the Arthur Store.

Notes on this issue…

Joe Strummer died on December 22, 2002. His death received some notice, of course, but since he’d left us in the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year—when glossy music and culture magazines are basically shut down—real coverage of his passing, and the life that he lived, didn’t happen in the pop culture magazines of record. Big-budget American publications like Rolling Stone, Spin and Blender had already finished their January 2003 issues, so major features couldn’t fit in there without major expense (pulled features, pulped magazines, etc.); and by the time their February 2003 issues rolled around, the news of Joe’s passing would be (to their market-minds) “stale,” and thus to be deserving of only an obligatory page or two. Which is absurd for someone of Joe’s stature, his body of work, and commitment to The Cause.

At Arthur, we decided to pull the cover feature that we had in progress. Working together, with no editorial budget, the budding Arthur gang was able to put together something of substance very quickly, and get it out to the people, for free, in mass quantities (50,000 copies), within weeks of Joe’s passing.

Our wake for Joe Strummer would not have happened without journalist/archivist Kristine McKenna. She had a recent, lengthy (3800 words), and yes, poignant conversation with Joe on tape—a really great conversation, of course (this IS Kristine McKenna, after all) that the LAWeekly had used just a bit from in a feature earlier in the year. Kristine had witnessed The Clash at the top of their game, so she could offer some real historical perspective. And, crucially, Kristine knew that her friend, the L.A. photographer Ann Summa, had a trove of gorgeous photographs of Joe, few of which had ever been published. And Kristine got us permission to reprint a Clash-related page from Slash, the crucial late-’70s underground L.A. magazine. Meanwhile, my old colleague Carter Van Pelt, a reggae enthusiast, offered a new interview about Joe that he conducted with Mikey Dread.

Soon we had reports from all over. People were picking up multiple copies of the magazine and redistributing it. The golden centerfold of Ann Summa photo of Joe (worked on with a great deal of care and attention by Arthur’s brilliant art director, W.T. Nelson) was being torn out of the magazine and posted on record store walls, in dorm rooms, in clubs. There are other strong pieces in this issue—the John Coltrane book excerpt, especially—but it’s Joe’s issue. As it should be.

Here’s how the contents page read:

JOE STRUMMER, 1952-2002

Arthur holds a wake in print for a man who mattered. In addition to stunning photographs by Ann Summa and excerpts of back-in-the-day Clash coverage from Slash magazine, we present reflections on Joe by Kristine McKenna; a lengthy, poignant interview with Joe from 2001 by McKenna; a consideration by Carter Van Pelt of the Clash’s embrace of reggae, featuring insights from Clash collaborator Mikey Dread; and a brief on Joe’s legacy: a forest in the Isle of Skye.

At the height of both his popularity and his artistic powers, JOHN COLTRANE went for something deeper. An exclusive, chapter-length excerpt from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album by Ashley Kahn.

The intrepid Gabe Soria connects with every single member of THE POLYPHONIC SPREE, the cheeriest 24-person pop symphony on the planet, in addition to chatting at length with Spree leader Tim DeLaughter about the “c” word, the Spree’s next move, and the sadness that remains. Portrait by Paul Pope.

“ASK JOHN LURIE”: He may be in self-described “hermit mode” but this longtime Lounge Lizard is eager to lend a helping hand to his fellow man. And woman too.

In the work of artist SHIRLEY TSE, plastic aspires to more than Pop. Mimi Zeiger reports.

COMICS by Sammy Harkham, Jordan Crane, Johnny Ryan, Sam Henderson, Marc Bell and Ron Rege Jr.

Byron Coley & Thurston Moore review underground music, film and texts.

And more more more

Arthur No. 3 is available from the Arthur Store.

GIFT IDEAS FROM ARTHUR MAGAZINE No. 2: "A Place to Begin: The Ferus Gallery" by Kristine McKenna

Click on the cover to go to a page on amazon where you can order the item…

ferusgallery

“In 1950s California, and especially in Los Angeles, there existed few venues for contemporary art. To a whole generation of California artists, this presented a freedom, since the absence of a context for their work meant that they could coin their own, and in uncommonly interesting ways. The careers of Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz all begin with this absence: Ruscha turned to books as a means of dissemination, Berman pioneered mail art through his magazine Semina and in March 1957, Ed Kienholz, in collaboration with curator Walter Hopps, co-founded one of California’s greatest historical galleries, Ferus. Within months of opening, Ferus, which is Latin for “wild,” gained notoriety when the Hollywood vice squad raided Berman’s first–and, in his lifetime, last–solo exhibition, following a complaint about “lewd material.” Shows by Kienholz and Jay DeFeo followed, but 1962 was Ferus’ annus mirabilis, with solo shows by Bruce Conner and Joseph Cornell, and the first solo shows of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol on the west coast. The following year, Ferus also hosted Ed Ruscha’s first solo exhibition. After Kienholz and Hopps parted ways—Hopps went on to mount the first American Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Musuem—the reins were handed to Irving Blum, who got Ferus out of the red and ran the gallery until its closure in 1966. A Place to Begin is an illustrated oral history of this heroic enterprise. With 62 new interviews with Ferus artists and more than 300 photographs (most previously unpublished), it retrieves a lost chapter of twentieth-century American art. Edited by [longtime Arthur contributor] Kristine McKenna, noted expert and co-editor of the critically acclaimed Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle.”