<i>Esopus</i> Survives 17 Issues (and Counting) with Due Fanfare

At the helm, founder Tod Lippy has reared Esopus to showcase artists in an ad-free context -- a superheroic feat in these dire times of hi-fi printed matter.
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Wednesday, November 2nd marks the launch party for the latest issue of Esopus magazine, a non-profit arts publication out twice annually since 2003. The name is etymologically Lenape, but the Esopus Creek, which flows out of the Catskills and meets the Hudson at Saugerties, is the tributary of inspiration to the title -- if not the whole curatorial force -- of the Manhattan-based Esopus Foundation. Alone at the helm, founder Tod Lippy has reared Esopus to showcase artists in an ad-free context -- a superheroic feat in these dire times of hi-fi printed matter.

As lavish in its material reality as in its content, reading this magazine is more akin to thumbing through artifacts in an on-paper museum: you'll want to spend some time exploring. Esopus 17, in particular, is the second largest issue in the magazine's eight-year history, brimming with artwork, fiction, poetry, film stills, a thorough history lesson on 1877, Victorian-era rebus puzzles (the solving of all 32 could earn readers a free subscription), found objects celebrated, art commentary by museum guards, and never-before-published archive material co-presented by such media beacons as the MoMA Archives and Magnum Foundation.

As if its multi-textured pages, plentiful inserts, and print charisma weren't enough, a compact disc of music on a theme sticks to the inside of Esopus's back cover. Lippy's compilation CD canon has, in the past, included songs on the themes of Craigslist's Missed Connections (issue #2), subscribers' imaginary friends (#4), and spam e-mails (#8) by contributors such as Stephin Merritt, Neko Case and Carl Newman, The Mountain Goats, Kimya Dawson, Grizzly Bear, Low, and Dirty Projectors, to name a small handful. Issue 17's theme is "Fear Itself." A list of subscriber-submitted "irrational fears" range from your typical creep factors (spiders, dark basements, sociopaths), to less conventional aversions (lava, unlucky circumstances in reincarnation, public vomiting), all of which were collected by Lippy and then bent by bands he selected into 13 original tracks: Bishop Allen takes on a reader's phobia of buttons, We Are Augustines sing of sudden numbness, Sage Redman -- a buzzing songstress freshly graduated from high school and well on her way to your iPod -- croons about a house being overtaken by lions, and a collaborative track, "Redback Strike," by Will Johnson (Centro-Matic), Bubba and Matt Kadane (Bedhead, The New Year), and David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) represents the public debut of the four musicians' new project.

An exceedingly special facet of Esopus 17 -- other than its [internal] record-breaking number of inserts (124 to be exact) -- is the inauguration of the magazine's newest serial feature "Analog Recovery." Edited by Magnum Photo agency's John Jacob, it will showcase recovered portfolios from acclaimed photographers who worked with the Magnum analog distribution system. This first installment presents work by Inge Morath, contemporary of Ernst Haas, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Capa, who invited her into the Magnum agency in its early years. Morath often covered opening nights, exhibitions, inaugurations, and other high-society fanfare, and in the winter of 1955 she visited Paris to shoot Bal D'Hiver, a dance on ice for charity, performed by European royalty. The costumes were donated by illustrious couturiers of the era, including Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior, and the affair was attended by, in Morath's words, "some of the most distinguished names in Europe," from the Countess d'Paris to Charlie Chaplin. Sixteen images from Bal D'Hiver, never before published nor exhibited, comprise this "Analog Recovery," and 14 of them will be on display as 23" x 35" prints at the Esopus gallery space, opening in conjunction with the issue's launch.

More on the magazine and Esopus foundation can be found here. Pick it up in print at bookstores such as St. Marks Bookshop. The Esopus issue 17 launch party and Inge Morath's Bal D'Hiver opening reception are this Wednesday Nov. 2, 6 - 8pm at the Esopus Space, 64 West 3rd St., #210 New York, NY 10012.

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