Visiting Printed Matter Bookstore and Seeing The WALLPAPER Exhibition

On a fine spring day in the Chelsea district, I was recommended by someone to visit the Printed Matter bookstore on Tenth Avenue near 26th Street, that there was an exhibition, which ran from May 13th to June 11th, consisting mostly of 11” X 17” posters anonymously printed and distributed by the mysterious WALLPAPER (from hereon referred to as “W”).  After arriving, I had to peruse through this unique store, which reincarnated itself over the years from one New York address to the next.

It seemed that no matter where I went I spotted books and magazines that had photographs or articles about people I personally know or met from the Lower East Side arts community.  I was drawn to books about the histories of ABC No Rio, Steve Cannon’s A Gathering of the Tribes, Stefan Eins’ Fashion Moda, CoLAB, The Orensanz Foundation, and many others connected to these places. The books I’d pick randomly off the shelf contained the names of writers/poets/artists like Peter Fend, Eve Packer, Steve Dalachinsky, Lehman Weichselbaum, Ron Kolm, Jeffery Cyphers Wright, to mention just a few.

This bookstore fascinated me ! 

WALLPAPER is a self-described “wandering/traveling troubadour/vagabond,” who has been active across film, publishing, writing, and as an event programmer, all of which are broadly informed by a Do-It-Yourself “zine” aesthetic.  As a “deconstructionist” with connection to the No Wave movement and the Rivington School, W’s work is interested equally in the tactics and narratives that emerge from archival and verite source material, pulling systems apart from an outsider’s perspective and piecing back together into a distinctive vision, a vision that is integrated with W’s own “non-mediated” and “off-the-grid” life.

W was the originator and publisher of the “wall magazine,” which first appeared in August of 1983. Issues of the magazine were posted one page at a time throughout various cities, including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Miami, Montreal, Lisbon, and London. With a range of styles and mediums, the “multi-media” magazine was made up of short stories, photographs, jokes, quotes, collages, essays, drawings, doodles, poems, and articles.  Each issue addressed a different topic, for example, “conversation/photography” and “dreams/first person narrative.”

Included in the exhibit is Moocher Periodical, which W periodically produced as a member of M.O.O.C.H. (Motivational Organization of Curious Humanity).

As an underground filmmaker, W’s output included experimental works, usually shot in 8mm, encompassing both original and found footage pulled from travel, propaganda, and commercial full-length films, occasionally worked over in double and triple exposure.  The work belies a deep interest in the power of the medium itself, how the portability of the 8mm camera allowed for a new immediacy and intimacy of perspective, capturing the world around him at eye level.  As part of the same undertaking, W was the organizer of regular often-eccentric events, including the annual Masturbation Film Festival, Stories of Those With Short Attention Spans, and Fuck the Seen.  Most of these efforts were accompanied by a steady stream of xeroxed flyers and staple-bound publications, which relayed program details, but also diverged into the realm of “artists’ projects” with long descriptive texts, handwritten or hammered out on a typewriter, which showed a boundless energy.

Some of the things that caught my eye throughout W’s exhibit, were:  New York In The 80’s:  1981-1990; The Wallpaper Extravaganza And a Half (1986); Night of the Living Bread (1983); The Death of Coney Island (1986-?); and Suck My Dick:  Obscenely Sexual Pornographic Writings:  1981-1994 (1992-?). 

On the last day of W’s exhibit, a few films were shown that I liked: San Francisco On $5 A Week! (8mm video with John Harris, 1992-?) and Reg. 8mm: SAVED FROM EXTINCTION (1995). 

There was a big turnout for W’s exhibition and films, and I have a feeling he’ll be back in New York for an encore.  I hope to be there when it happens.

Wallpaper IV.jpg