Lately I’ve been obsessed with 1998. There was something going on in New York at that time. Deitch Projects was fresh and new. So was Chelsea. American Fine Arts. Alleged. The “old” New Museum. And tech companies were throwing money at the creative class. Everyone was freelance and everyone had at least one project on the side.
That was the year that I moved to New York, so yeah, nostalgia acknowledged, but it was still a moment.
Same era, magazines were still relevant towards our collective cultural discourse. Index. Dazed and Confused. Sleazenation. Purple (and Purple Sex). The Internet was great and all, but our connections were too slow. We needed information and periodicals doled out in measured bits, just enough to make us need more.
Andrew Richardson, a fashion stylist who worked with Steven Meisel on Madonna’s Sex Book, amongst other things, tended towards the sexual and confrontational with his editorials. So naturally a Japanese publisher by the name of Charlie Brown wanted to see what he’d do with a porn magazine. Andrew promptly put one together and thanks to a few kind words in The Face and the fact that it was impossible to find, RICHARDSON was sought after. The first issue included: Harmony Korrine’s bleached out ghost porn. Terry Richardson being Terry Richardson. Jenna Jameson offering up personal tidbits to Neke Carson way before her book was even an idea. Ed Templeton’s sexy snapshots of his wife. Plus text by Richard Prince and the ever-heady sleaze of Stewart Home. Pretty damn fine smut, if you could call it that. Nicely done.
A couple more issues were released, but money runs out and Andrew still had his fashion career. RICHARDSON disappeared for awhile.
Now, it’s back. Only this time Andrew’s head is in a different space. This time around he’s less inspired by Howard Stern and Aaron Rose and more impressed by Gunter Rambow’s book, Doris.
“That made a big impact on me. He was a German photographer that was somehow connected to Valie Export and the Aktionists. He did this book from a really feminist point of view. Looked at the female body and the vagina from a feminist point of view and the Greek goddess Baubo. When I saw the book, I was like, Wow, this is the starting point. Vaginas for women. Smiling vaginas. Happy vaginas. Relaxed vaginas. Cool vaginas. I wanted to do this thing that evolved to be about pro-sex feminism and the female gaze — how women look at women.”
And while it was an uphill battle — the opening acknowledgements to the magazine thank all the women who said no — the final product is a sound introduction to Valie Export, Carolee Schneeman and Annie Sprinkle. Amy Kellner, one of my favorite mag writers, has a nice piece on Riot Grrls and zine culture. And plenty of titillating art. [FULL DISCLOSURE: the issue includes a rich 14-page spread on Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, an artist that my gallery represents.]
It’s not quite as topical as the earlier issues, but it falls in line with our current collective fascination for seminal female body art. Due in no small part to editor at large and gallerist, Michele Maccarone.
Andrew again: “She’s a bit of a sex maniac. We’re just friends, but she’s really rigorous and I respect her opinion. She was a really great ally. Without her, we would not have been able to get a lot of the stuff. A great foil to my dyslexic approach.”
I asked Michele what inspired her to help on a glorified sex magazine.
“’Porn’ seems to influence and be appropriated into several different disciplines: art, fashion etc. So is porn really still porn?” she queried. “I am really interested in this question, and more interested in the feminist rhetoric that addressed it. Historically porn was known to be one thing – but now is it merely gonzo gang bangs and double penetration as well as American Apparel ads?”
So Michele helped assure potential participants such as Sue Williams and Carol Bove into loaning their images for a man-made sex context. But she also interviewed Sasha Grey, porn star du jour and cover model.
Michele continues: “She was incredibly articulate, smart, informed. She had recently seen a show at the Pompidou with works of several artists of this edition of Richardson: Schneemann, Valie Export, etc. We discussed this at length and we were so engaged in the discussion that Andrew wanted to cut me off so we could go back to discussing the “sexier” topics.”
In the end, conversation always turns to what should have been in the magazine. There’s very little post Riot Grrl, which is where Andrew seems to have decided that pro-sex feminism hit its mark. Womanizer, with Julie Atlas Muiz’s pussy portraits and Kembra Pfahler, should be in there. Jana Leo’s Rape New York. Mickalene Thomas. Eve Fowler. A.L. Steiner. That said, when was the last time you saw a glossy sex magazine with a history fetish? Kudos to that. And to quote Sasha Gray, “Challenge yourself and challenge the system.”
PS_The website also includes Valie Export’s 1976 film, Invisible Adversaries, in its entirety. Amazing. www.richardsonmag.com
1.The man who painted Warhol with his ass.
2.See recent exhibitions: Marina Abramovic, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, The Visible Vagina.