This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Edited by Miriam Katzeff, Thomas Lawson & Susan Morgan
Introductions by Thomas Lawson, Susan Morgan & Matthew Higgs
Primary Information, $30 (paperback)
In the early 1980s, a high level of activity in New
York went unexamined (at first) by the big art
magazines and commercial galleries, a perceived
gap from which REAL LIFE magazine emerged.
Founded in 1979 by artist Thomas Lawson and
writer Susan Morgan, REAL LIFE started as a engage in, including Mike Kelley, Chris Burden,
public forum for under-regarded or unregarded Dave Muller and Critical Art Ensemble. Much of
artists and writers, so that they would develop in REAL LIFE’s print run coincided with the rise and
an atmosphere of serious criticism. It just so turns collapse of the last big art boom, and the magazine
out that many of these artists emerged as either so accurately captures the again-familiar talk of
some of the most significant of their generation or the ever-impending bust. And the editors’ move
as necessary reassessments from the previous one: from New York to Los Angeles mirrored the shift
Dan Graham, Jeff Wall, Barbara Kruger, James away from the East Coast art capital towards its
Welling, Richard Prince and Kim Gordon, along self-appointed successor.
with Lawson and Morgan, to name just a few. Though emerging organically out of a
One of the problems that can arise from particular milieu (the broken-down ruins of New
collecting the back issues of an old magazine into York in the late 1970s, late-night conversations in
a book is that everything that felt fresh and vital East Village tenements), the critical acuity of the
at the time may feel, upon updated examination, essays contained within are incredible, both in
dustily, painfully and irredeemably dated today. their depth and authority. So many of the fanzines
But looking through REAL LIFE Magazine: and magazines to come out of this era were
Selected Writings and Projects 1979–1994, I’m amateurish, market driven or simply stodgy; REAL
astonished by the freshness of the writing. REAL LIFE manages, like much of the art concerned in
LIFE documents the early evidence of the vibrant the magazine – as Lawson is quoted as saying
art scene developing in the early 1980s, capturing in Matthew Higgs’s introduction – to embody a
the shifting away from post-minimalist puritanism ‘familiarity towards popular culture. A mixture of
into the decadence of expressive painting, love and contempt for the ever present images
narrative and pop culture reappropriation. But the of capitalist consumerism.’ As editors, Lawson
magazine transcends being a simple document of and Morgan seem to understand the seductive
the time, and the writing, such as Jeff Wall’s long quality of pop culture, mixing this awareness with
essay on Dan Graham, fascinates for its depth and an acute critical awareness. Critical without falling
clarity rather than the who or when of it. into the jargon of academia, hip without being
As the scene changed shape, so did the hipster, dealing directly with culture in a manner
magazine, moving away from its original core both incisive and informed, REAL LIFE Magazine
to find new artists and new conversations to renews our sense of the vitality of a particular
time, and underscores its relevance for ours.
Andrew Berardini
one.linsix.linthree.lin ARTREVIEW
p162-165 Reviews AR Jun07.indd 3 3/5/07 17:39:10
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