New Colby Museum exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of celebrated, departed art magazine Esopus
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, July 19, 2024

New Colby Museum exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of celebrated, departed art magazine Esopus
Installation view of A Lot More Inside: Esopus Magazine, Colby College Museum of Art, February 15–May 12, 2024. Photo by Andrew Witte.

WATERVILLE, ME.- The Colby College Museum of Art presents A Lot More Inside: Esopus Magazine, a new exhibition revealing never-before-seen archival materials and original artworks associated with Esopus Magazine, the celebrated alternative arts magazine.

Heralded by New York Times columnist David Carr as “a thing of lavish, eccentric beauty,” Esopus was published from 2003 to 2018. Its history is documented in a comprehensive archive held by Special Collections and Archives in the Colby College Libraries.

The exhibition, which is curated by Esopus founder and editor Tod Lippy and Megan Carey, Barbara Alfond director of exhibitions and publications at the museum, will be on view from February 15 through May 12, 2024. It includes audio and video artifacts, photographs of studio visits and press runs, handwritten notes and diagrams, email exchanges, issue mockups, printers’ proofs, and artists’ notes, offering a behind-the-scenes vantagepoint on an innovative magazine committed to providing an unfiltered, unmediated (ad-free) experience of pure creative expression. An accompanying 150-page publication, edited and designed by Lippy, will serve as a final issue of the publication.

“When Colby Libraries acquired the Esopus archive in 2019, I was thrilled—this was the kind of home for Esopus I’d dreamed of finding when I ceased publication. It was clear to me that Colby’s vital community of students, faculty and staff, not to mention the residents of Waterville and its environs, would bring new life to this collection,” said Lippy.

“This resulting exhibition presents a wonderful opportunity to introduce the archive—not to mention Esopus itself—not only to that community but to everyone else who visits this world-class museum during the run of the show. I’ve been both humbled and energized by the enthusiasm, vision, and focus of everyone I’ve worked with at Colby.”

Esopus’s unique archive is filled with art, photography, literature, music, history, and popular culture. The publication featured contemporary artists’ projects by both established and emerging figures such as William Christenberry, Mary Lum, Alex Masket, Mickalene Thomas, and Richard Tuttle. It presented personal reflections by creative practitioners, for instance novelist Karl Ove Knausgård and theatrical lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, alongside short plays, visual essays, film excerpts, poetry, and fiction. Each of the twenty-five issues concluded with a themed audio compilation of new songs by genre-spanning musicians.

Esopus also connected with, and involved, readers through “subscriber invitationals,” in which people were asked to submit content that was then used as source material for contributors. For instance, in Esopus 4, readers were invited to send in descriptions of their childhood imaginary friends, which then inspired songs by musical acts such as Low and Kimya Dawson (available to listen to in the exhibition).

A Lot More Inside: Esopus Magazine will encourage a similar level of engagement with its audience by making available all issues of the magazine and other Esopus publications for perusal; visitors can complete and use “Esopus Picks” bookmarks to indicate their favorite contributions. There will also be a range of materials related to the magazine’s exhibition venue, Esopus Space (2009–12); and a hammock––commissioned from Esopus contributor Paolo Arao and Gregory Beson––will help to turn the Davis Gallery alcove into a relaxing space that evokes the publication’s namesake, the Esopus Creek in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The creek will be depicted in an animated projection commissioned from Esopus contributors Hinterland Studios. A number of related events, from magazine-making workshops to film screenings, will take place on campus and in downtown Waterville throughout the run of the exhibition.

“Lippy and his many collaborators show students at Colby and all of the museum’s audiences how so many other artists make art today, and in fact, how many have worked for decades,” said Jacqueline Terrassa, Carolyn Muzzy director of the Colby College Museum of Art.

“Having the archive at Colby and making it both visible and active through the medium of an exhibition and a related publication invites all of us, and especially Colby students who are learning across disciplines, to consider the boundless nature of art and the possibilities for what is in fact not vanishing—tangible things to hold in our hand, to sense, and to read.”

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