18 December 2008

Willoughby Sharp

One of the first avant-garde art magazines I knew about was Avalanche. It was oblong, usually (or always) just in black-and-white, and I loved getting the issues in the mail. It didn't hurt that the editor's name was Willoughby Sharp which seemed about as cool a name as one could have. That name and the image of Avalanche has stuck with me since those college days of the 1960s. Then, sometime earlier this year when I stopped in at Mitchell Algus Gallery, Mitchell introduced me to this dapper gentleman who was sitting in the chair next to Mitchell's desk. Mitchell knows I work in a library and thought I could help the gentleman get a photocopy of an early note about one of his art works. Yes, it was Willoughby Sharp. Though we didn't talk about it, his jaw looked damaged by the ravages of cancer and his voice was a tad slurred. The request for help was really not very significant: just a photocopy from a journal that we have at Bobst Library. It was amazing to think that I was talking to that great Willoughby Sharp.

Just a few days later, I was at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City and there was a work on the lower level by Sharp, and it had to do with his cancer treatments. My skin cancer didn't involve chemo or radiation treatment so I can only imagine the devastation it wreaks on your body, but I am thankful for artists who can help the rest of us understand through their art. I sent the photocopies to Sharp and he said I should stop by some time at his studio in Brooklyn.

This morning's email brought a message that Willoughby Sharp died yesterday. It hurts: seminal art influence, been with me mostly in the background forever, a brief encounter so recently. Still, there are evocative pictures and texts in Sharpville.


Anonymous said...

FYI, Avalanche 1 through 8 were square magazine
format; Avalanche 9 through 13 were tabloid newspaper format. Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp
were cofounders of Avalanche and collaborated on all the issues.
For more info, go to www.avalanchemagazine.org

Anonymous said...

FYI Avalanche was published from 1970 to 1976;
the first eight issues were in square magazine
format; the last five in newspaper tabloid format; Willoughby Sharp and Liza Bear were
cofounders of Avalanche and collaborated on
all thirteen issues.
For more info go to www.avalanchemagazine.org

Sherman Clarke said...

So you have a hot link, here's where I went when I typed in the URL in the comments above: http://www.primaryinformation.org/index.php?/projects/upcoming-avalanche/

Sherman Clarke said...

An obituary for Willoughby Sharp appeared in the New York Times on December 31st. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/arts/design/31sharp.html?scp=2&sq=willoughby%20sharp&st=cse