Destroy All Monsters Magazine
Destroy All Monsters Magazine 1976-1979
by Destroy All Monsters
Primary Information, New York NY, 2011
Distributed by Distributed Art Publishers
270 pp., illus. 40 col., 185 b/w. Paper, $30
Reviewed by Mike Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University
I teach my mid-Michigan painting students about Destroy All Monsters, the youthful art-gang consisting of Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Cary Loren, and single-named Niagara, that met and assembled in Ann Arbor in 1973. That was my own hometown, but since I had just left for college out of state, I missed the adventure. I received excited postcards from Ann Arbor friends who hung out with these creative hippie-punks, acted in their movies, played once or twice with their band, shared their recreational drugs. Kelley and Shaw attended the University of Michigan College of Art and Design, and Loren and Niagara lived together near the campus. When these four were about 20, they were productively and confidently making drawings, paintings, collages, installations, films and art-noise-music together. So in my classroom lectures, I drum home that students in our state should be doing the same, too, now. It was fortunate that the new Destroy All Monsters Magazine collection, published by Primary Information in New York City, arrived right after this semester's lecture on the clique. Students peruse this kind of stuff intently.
I point out to today's students that both Kelley and Shaw have, since then, built notable international careers as artists upon motifs (psychological, sociological, and pop cultural) drawn from their Michigan boyhoods. As a teenager, Niagara <http://www.niagaradetroit.com> had pretty much already developed her graphic style depicting femme fatales; today she thrives in the metropolitan Detroit region as a painter and occasional accessories designer. Her nights are sometimes punctuated by musical performances (as in Australia, 2010), where she sings the old songs and meets new fans who sport tattoos based on her artwork. Cary Loren celebrated his toothsome girlfriend in his Super-8 films and photographs for his photo-based collages and has recently been exhibiting his collages in venues in New York and Europe with some reissued as trading cards. He also sells DVDs of his old and new films from his store Book Beat <http://www.thebookbeat.com> in the Detroit suburb Oak Park.
The Destroy All Monsters Magazine project was edited and published by Cary Loren 1975-79. It deserves recognition as a document of several histories, including the technological. While Kelley and Shaw had pulled prints in their UM classes, Loren's publication occupies a curious place straddling the borders between artists' books, zines, and fine art printmaking. In the 1970s, rebellious artists were fascinated by the copy machine, whose first use in that arena has been attributed to Sonia Sheridan, who taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (an attribution that overshadowed, to her dismay, other aspects of her Generative Systems curriculum). Many pages feature the low-resolution degradation of the copy machine, flattening snapshots and photography, a look nearly universal in the Punk community of the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike Michigan radical poet John Sinclair's influential 1972 book Guitar Army, designed by "Minister of Propaganda" Gary Grimshaw, where different chapters are printed on different colors of paper (a metaphor for Sinclair's Rainbow Peoples' Party, formerly the White Panther Party), in Destroy All Monsters magazine different colors of paper and inks appear unexpectedly, seemingly arbitrarily, throughout the magazine.
A few pages are reproduced on a ditto machine (Banda machine in UK, and also called a spirit duplicator for the alcohol solvent used in the machine), a low-volume favorite of educational institutions in the 1960s to disseminate inter-departmental memos, student handouts, and exams. Some use the older mimeograph process, and are, then, overprinted with photocopying in another color of ink. Others use a Canon machine, released as product in 1973 and appearing in American copy shops about five years later that used an electrostatic process allowing for affordable color photocopies; this medium was explored of Rene Yañez and Bob Basile in San Francisco.
In an interview upon the book's publication in 2011, Loren told WDET radio (http://www.wdet.org/news/story/CaryDAMBook/) that at a community college he taught himself "offbeat printing: split fountains, messy, crazy things, screwing with the press...why it looks so sloppy, strange, different colors, psychedelicized". He would "get on the presses really fast, print over flyers stolen from record or flower shops as soon as I had 1,000", seeking a layered effect with three or four passes through the press, employing "every kind of printing that existed in 1975 or 1976." Loren takes pride in how "[t]hings would get thick with ink, just not readable." At first this reader marveled how the book, printed in Iceland, faithfully reproduced the Krylon spatter, including neon (then called day-glo) colors of monotype-like pages, as well as coffee stains. I then learned from the WDET interview that unique pages were inserted in each copy of this reprint of the magazines, an individual "three-second painting" inserted in as frontispiece to each issue. As the book project was taking shape, Loren fortuitously "found a stack of color paper fake-signed by strange celebrities" by whom–which of his prankster friends or arty bookstore employees–he doesn't know, upon which the hasty paintings were created by Loren and Jimbo Easter. So I may herewith describe some pages unique to my own copy.
Issue #1 contains an appropriately feverish (like all good ones–Futurist, Situationist etc.–in art history) Destroy All Monsters manifesto. "The main intention is not to produce music, but to be engaged in an activity that provides an instantaneous feedback of powerful cleansing noise...like poking an animal with a stick or crossing the threshold and setting off an alarm." They seek a "theraputic" [sic] "emotion-deadening machine repetition that sets up rythm [sic] for you to live by more easily", comparable to "electroshock" while "like a factory", "a hard way of life". Recall that this was the era of Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" (1975), Iggy Pop's "Mass Production" (1977), and dissonant work by that track's producer David Bowie. A program of "black noise" would eradicate "any need for pop entertainment of any kind", and "wouldn't be anything–the total existance [sic] of comfort". Loren told WDET that there was a venal purpose behind the magazine's genesis, "to sell our tapes" Their first cassette release, of industrial noise music fortified with sound loops, was 1,000 copies, got 20 or 20 orders for the $2 cassette.
A rubber stamp saying Destroy All Monsters dances across pages. A Tinkerbelle drawn by Niagara cavorts amongst pills, a fishnet-stockinged leg, and TV announcer George Fenneman. There is much of Andy Warhol's world here: Nico, Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe (what looks like a Warhol painting shot off television, photographically printed then photocopied). Carol Doda, glamorous young Niagara, long haired Cary, an Op Art background. Imagery is mediated, multiple times if possible. Boo Boo Bear, shot off television; Roxy Music featured a similarly grainy television image on their Live album about this time.
A complex Jim Shaw drawing of sexy women, male nerds, Nazis, fragmented yet tightly super-realist in rendering, and a collage with 1950s imagery. There's also a notice requesting a "spare mud puddle" over red and blue mimeographed runes, perhaps proposed site of a Mike Kelley performance, with spray stencil over ditto copy. There is what appears to be a real advertisement for a plant shop called Flora Heaven. One could imagine Loren approaching the owners: We've got a new magazine, we'll sell you an ad...but he said in the WDET radio interview that he would find discarded stacks of flyers in dumpsters, which he would then overprint. So evidently the florist and the young collagist never met.
We revel in, or puzzle to, the multiple passes: photocopy on color copy on mimeograph of cells, test patterns for copier line resolution, electronic schematics, and an image of Niagara with a knife. Pages sport rubber stamps, swimmers and spray paint. There's an "Acid Monsters" song, which might either be one of Loren's or perhaps from an early Day Is Done-like Mike Kelley performance. A poem "Sitting in Your Dorm Room at Midnight" did not read like the voice of any of the artists. The mystery of its origin was solved when Loren told WDET it was found sitting in dorm launderette, and that other items pulled out of garbage can.
There's a murky "Captain Spit" comic reproduced twice yet largely obscured. Intentionally? Of course! A photo of dressed-up art students appears and colonial-era skull and crossbones. A documentary photograph of Shaw, Niagara, and friends meeting Andy Warhol at Centicore Bookshop in Ann Arbor was taken by the dutiful Warholian Loren, and, in its way, marks a passing of the Pop baton in Michigan, as a similar new generation of post-Pop artists was also emerging in New York. We see Nancy Sinatra in stripes atop a background of striped Op Art; the puppet Topo Gigio, Monopoly game money, celebrities like Glenn Campbell, Mae West, and Niagara. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, shot off TV. Niagara and Hitler-mustached Bobby Epstein. Niagara sprawled with knife and blood. Nixon with a bullet hole in his forehead, ecstatic woman repeated, faces from a school yearbook, a menacing shot of soap maker Dr. Bronner that appeared in a profile in Esquire magazine. Between this issue and the next is a page of spray paint spatter with "Busby Berkeley" written upon it. Loren told WDET he found his stack of pages had been autographed, behind his back, by an unidentifiable prankster collaborator, but that was fine with him.
Issue #2 also has Oz-bound Dorothy off TV, an ornate frame, plus old English text. Everything is mediated, grainy from TV, degradation of copy-machine repetition. Here's Niagara and Bobby Epstein again, plus celebrities Jackie, Marilyn, Louise Brooks, and Ann Arbor "space" guitarist Larry Miller, playing with Destroy All Monsters. There are early-'60s photos of suburban kids, JFK, and Marilyn, then a line from Ann Arbor psychedelic songwriter Paul Kazrin. Artist and occasional Loren model Francesca Palazzola is positioned near other attractive friends (is the blonde girl an earlier Loren girl friend?), Loren himself , and his childhood photos. Actress Joanne Worley, from Rowan and Martin's "Laugh In" and off-Broadway production "The Mad Show", grins circa 1969. Loren's photo of Michigan rockers Ron Asheton and Mike Davis is a portent of players who would have a major effect on his creative and personal life. Spray paint spatter pages are autographed "The Creeper" and "Felix the Cat", but maybe that's only in my copy. These pages are reminiscent of the poems on red construction paper that communist poet Jack Hirschman used to give away in San Francisco in the early 1980s, where a single scrawled name might invoke Che, Neruda, or Sandino.
Issue #3 has a Niagara drawing on the cover, a woman with a scorpion tattoo, electric-spark lettering. Following pages are tattooed with Aubrey Beardsley, Op Art, JFK, Marilyn (the previous two saints in the church of Warhol, e.g., holy pictures). Sheena of the Jungle, ventriloquist Shari Lewis in hard color, Niagara with knife, underground filmmaker Jack Smith and his actor Mario Montez all seem to coexist logically. We are given an alternate magazine cover, Gomez and Morticia Addams over Op Art. Niagara with another knife appears over Larry or Ben Miller poetry, in pages reproduced directly from EMPOOL, a zine that Larry Miller was producing with Link Yaco (who acted in a notable Loren Super-8 movie). Yaco was a highly literate comic book collector who went on to write the Eros Comics series Space Chix vs. the Businessmen, MetaCops and a hardcover text The Science of the X-Men.
Superman is depicted kissing Little Dot's boot, and more collages include Little Dot, Shari Lewis, Op Art. Niagara's friend Ingrid Good holds a heart-shaped candy box and Loren has lettered the lyrics to the Doors' "Crystal Ship" around it. There follows a Mike Kelley grotesque and "What Men Have Built", apparently appropriated from a religious tract (Kelley and Shaw lived in a house with a sign on the porch, obtained from a roadside church, "God's Oasis"). A fat woman, more Op Art, childhood photos, actress Jennifer Jones off television, a solarized picture of Niagara. There's a collage by Jim Shaw that shows 1950s cars hovering over Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The magazine's credits are lettered upon an Aubrey Beardsley drawing by Loren, now residing in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. A collage with nuns and USAF fighter planes, Loren, Niagara, again with a knife. An alternate Destroy All Monsters cover or poster, with Op Art, computer-printout lettering, Topo Gigio. A page from EMPOOL has the name "M. Kelley" penciled atop it; does this mean it's his text, or reproduced from his personal, inscribed copy? The spray paint spatter page reads "Jack Gelbert."
Issue #4 is Gala Christmas Issue, dated December 1978, a time of winter melancholy in Michigan. Niagara's cover drawing shows the Evil Queen from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty", ice dripping off her cowl, ermine muff, and sleigh. There's an image from the humor magazine circa 1900 called Life, Elsa Lanchester as Bride of Frankenstein, and Santa with a girl child (Niagara?). A rhythmic pattern of lipstick and fingernail polish samples decorates one page, followed by a Wally Wood-drawn monster novelty. Frames from the Zapruder footage of President Kennedy's shooting are overlaid with a comic book balloon "Kill him–or we're finished!," evoking Barbara Garson's "MacBird" and its conspiracy. The famous 1940s photo of filmmaker Maya Deren mounted on a background Santa Claus wrapping paper almost looks like Niagara gazing out a window into the Michigan winter gloom. Across the book's gutter is a Mike Kelley drawing of grotesques emblazoned with labels "John Q. Public," "A Blanket of Ignorance and Death," and "The Criminal" reminiscent of a Herblock political cartoon during the Cold War. Sean Connery, Bettie Page, Jean Harlow, Andy Warhol, an Utamaro geisha and, of course, Niagara all look elegant, while Santa Claus toasts a vampire with Coca-Cola.
Then among the photos we find a hand-lettered history of Destroy All Monsters. "A visit with Destroy All Monsters rock band...How did Destroy All Monsters get started anyhow? Hey, am I talking to myself?!?" Milestones listed include the winter, 1974 gathering of the four central artists, when Mike Kelley played drums and squeeze toys. While many local musicians jammed with them, by summer 1976 Kelley and Shaw had departed for California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California and the Miller brothers, Ann Arbor locals, had joined. "Phase 3 of the History" is when Loren met Ron Asheton, and with Mike Davis, he joined Destroy All Monsters in April 1976. Rob King, a competent rock drummer from a family that owned a music store, and whose sense of humor was described fondly, joined. In August 1977 Loren "once again lost his mind", giving up girlfriend, band and serenity. "Phase 4" of the band was, at the time of this writing, soldiering on without him, driven by Asheton and Larry Miller's guitars. Was this personal history a fearless moral inventory in a 12-step recovery? Is Loren's an apologia, in the Catholic sense? Exculpatory? With agonizing honesty, he accurately recounts his centrality to the entire project, an eye already on the historical record.
Kelley and Shaw departed for graduate school in southern California, musicians Ben and Larry Miller joined the band (their brother Roger, who was soon to form Mission of Burma in Boston, played with them on occasion too). Ron Asheton and Mike Davis, older veterans of important Michigan rock bands the Stooges and the MC5, joined. These musicians gave Loren and Niagara's songs both skilled avant-garde and tough rock n' roll edges. Loren "lost his mind" (his words) and "totally loco" was booted from the band. He lost Niagara to the Stooge Ron Asheton (videos of a late version of the band on YouTube feature these two), yet Loren gamely includes flyers for the band in his zine. Yet like cookie maker Famous Amos, Loren lost his brand. By the mid 1980s, Niagara and Asheton tired of the Destroy All Monsters name, and had a new band through much of the 1990s, Dark Carnival. One might have hoped that, like Steve Jobs' company Apple, Loren had won Destroy All Monsters back; in a sense, Mike Kelley gave it back to him in 1995, when Kelley and Shaw took renewed interest in the project and secured both capital and international venues for their new exhibition and performance follies. Loren has since recorded original songs and music with Detroit collaborators under the name Monster Island.
Turn the magazine page to find 1960s women, plus a lettered text with "Nutty Professor" allusions to "Mr. Love" (actually Buddy Love), then debonair Sean Connery holding his liquor. There are humorous collages about photography using imagery from the 1920s to 1940s. Niagara is overlaid with a quote from Jonathan Swift about looking "with joy on what is past". Another young woman, perhaps another girlfriend of the artist-editor, pokes her head repeatedly above the tumult. As in previous issues, there follow fan magazine-type pictures of Asheton, King, Loren, and Niagara interspersed with Marilyn, Judy Garland, Andy Warhol and soup, and Loren's own mother (Warhol's mother added hand lettering to her son's commercial illustrations–did Mrs. Loren contribute to her son's project?). A Niagara drawing shows a lady with sleeping pills. A fake 45 rpm record "Il Love You But You're Dead" is juxtaposed with that recurrent cellar shot of Niagara with knife and blood. A Destroy All Monsters song list is dutifully provided, with Loren's contribution to lyrics and music noted along with all others, for the historical record.
A page that announces Ben and Larry Miller's subsequent departure from the band–fresh news at press time–is leavened, or given barbs, with anecdotes of alcohol intake. Then there's a floppy "Have a Fun Vacation" cartoon, perhaps by Jim Shaw? Shaw's comment on Loren's enforced "vacation" from his band? A colophon notes that the magazine was printed at Wayne State University, which Loren attended at the time. Then harkening back to Destroy All Monsters' tortured history, as recounted in this "Gala" issue, a photo of Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, and ex- Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton that had appeared in the magazine's first issue–at that time with the innocent spirit of Look! Here's Jim, Mike and a famous guy!–has been drawn over, repurposed into a poster for the present band, perhaps by Loren at his loneliest in a monument to departed friends and collaborators (though the gestural hand also resembles some 1980s Kelley drawings). The band was opening act for the Ramones, whose name (to the probable chagrin of the New York Punk rockers and their fans) appears in small print.
After a spray painted page labeled "Spaces", Issue #5 announces it's the Hollywood issue, dated January 1979 and assembled by Loren during a trip to California. It's dedicated to Eric Von Stroheim and his era, and boasts a 1938 Antonin Artaud text. One notes the recurrence of icy screen goddesses, usually Nordic and blonde, in Loren's work; they influenced how he photographed and filmed Niagara too. Detroit and its region in the 1960s and 1960s were dominated by racial struggle, and this reviewer, a product of the region in that era, looks back on a lot of art by white kids as a conscious avoidance of it. A cartoon of a menacing black man by Kelley appeared in the Destroy All Monsters Geisha This collection, but the only blacks that appear in this book are in a single photo of a curious group of teenagers in the unpublished "lost issue", as if snapped by Loren as he passed a high school.
In this issue Loren takes pride in his "Color Xeroxes," noting with the attentiveness of an art historian how they were four months in production, from September 1978 to January 1979, and involved hand-developed E6 Ektachrome slides, hand-tinted photographs and "magazine-type collage". "Xerox printing done in North Hollywood, California."
These are playful off-register, overlaps, shuffling around Bobby Epstein as a Hitler-mustached lobster, a 1920s valentine, horror movie villain Albert Dekker, girly magazine torsos. Loren's layers, media imagery in and out of focus and resolution, veils of color and imagery from the past, a past imagined by fantasy illustrators or Hollywood cinema, or his personal past, from boyhood to his home with Niagara. The zine is a letter from the suburban Detroit Von Sternberg to his Dietrich, Niagara. And some of Loren's Ann Arbor friends were a lot like Peter Lorre.
Is Artaud's 1938 text taken from its first edition? Is it different from the version in the Grove Press paperback The Theater and Its Double, found on dorm room bookshelves since 1958? Loren notes Artaud's 1948 death date, coincidentally the birth year of Ron Asheton, who charmed Niagara away from Loren's bed. The mere title of "The Theater of Cruelty" evokes the Stooges' "Open Up and Bleed" and Iggy Pop's onstage masochism, Ron Asheton's Nazi regalia, as well as early Destroy All Monsters' loud assault of noise music and cinema. A stated goal is "To put an end to the subjugation of the Theater to the text", much as Loren freed imagery from associative, explanatory text in his magazine. Artaud's text is further illuminated by his student Loren, in marginalia of sexy underwear ads, Bela Lugosi, Santa Claus, and Elvis with Mamie Van Doren.
Aubrey Beardsley is juxtaposed with science fiction illustrator Virgil Finlay. A repurposed line of type says "Straight and Camp", which might sum up Loren's own aesthetic. Does he wear this motto as a tattoo? Sean Connery is back, pictured with James Bond's Aston-Martin DB5. Connery appears later in the issue, in an ad for Jim Beam whiskey. A song follows, presumably by Loren, "Blackout in the City". Baudelaire's "Hymn to Beauty is lettered in fancy decorated calligraphy upon silent film stars, grainy on bright green paper; it's contrasted with Loren's own obsessive poem "Sanctuary's All the Same". Theda Bara, Eric Von Stroheim, Bettie Page on Op Art field, all dance by our page-turning fingertips; today's reader might await a new Destroy All Monsters zine for the iPad. Then Loren's "Time Bomb" poem is written upon a Beardsley drawing. Like Walter Benjamin, Loren unpacks his library, of fine old illustrated editions to be then remixed and mashed up. The last page is a Mannerist- or Baroque-era print by Hendrik Goltzius of a dragon munching on beefy human corpses. The monstrous turns upon the man.
Issue #6 begins with a Virgil Finlay cover, with the note that Finlay died January 18, 1971; one suspects this was just about the time Loren began dating Niagara. This one, numbered Vol. II no. VI, 1979, is called "Special Hollywood Issue". In heavily embellished, fancy, fey lettering we are assured "As ever, you will find it obsessed with time, age, beauty, death and the maze of life," for it was "Concocted in the hallucinatory neighborhood of Hollywood, California by a Mr. Cary Loren of Detroit." Like Iggy Pop about five years before, recording the songs of "Kill City" with guitarist James Williamson while trying to score dope and a record deal, or perhaps novelist Thomas Mann a half-century before that, Loren celebrates his visit to Tinseltown, in brief exile from his quotidian rustbelt roots. We are promptly given Alfred Hitchcock off television, a similarly reassuring (yet untrustworthy?) narrator of strange tales. There is a stippled ink drawing, unsigned and uncredited, but resembling those by Larry Miller's past musical (and EMPOOL) collaborator Arnold Lellis. Plenty of stills, snapshots, pretty faces in sunglasses follow, like a mid-westerner's cliché vision of Hollywood. There are images by Jack Smith from his 1963 "Flaming Creatures", whose showing was shut down in the 1960s by police in Ann Arbor, when Loren was still in middle school about thirty miles away. There follows a text by Jack Smith, and images by Smith or perhaps Kenneth Anger.
An ad clipped out of a newspaper announces a discussion of Patty Hearst on a Detroit talk show, a rare intrusion of the revolutionary politics of the era (though Kelley, Loren and Shaw have all acknowledged elsewhere the influence of John Sinclair's White Panther Party rhetoric on their aesthetics). Images from the Michigan band SRC's album "Traveler's Tale" are relevant again, for the reunited band has just played in Detroit what was advertised as its first concert in 40 years.
A photo Loren shot at the Detroit State Fair of a sideshow exhibit boasting a living, headless woman. Collages featuring Joanne Worley, Bela Lugosi, Marilyn, Topo Gigio, Jim Shaw, bare-breasted pin ups and Loren's own movie stills. A Virgil Finlay illustration (gooped up by a short prose-poem or fantasy synopsis by Loren in flowery lettering), an aging Marlene Dietrich (the avowed obsession with "time, age, beauty"), and promotional material for the Japanese movie Destroy All Monsters. The movie features the giant monsters Godzilla, Manda, Mothra, and Rodan (no, not the sculptor). They occupy Ogsawara Island, Japan, perhaps comparable to garbage-pit Zug Island in the Detroit River, which Loren commemorated in the name of a later psychedelic-folk music ensemble. There's an image from another 1960s horror movie, "The Flesh Eaters", and one from the "Mars Attacks" bubblegum cards. An orientalist story is written upon actor Warner (as "Charlie Chan") Oland's face, where a "traitororus [sic] fiend was drownd [sic] by perfumed barbiturates found in shriek Gestapo terrapins" in atmosphere of "aquatic shrewism". Perhaps the shrew is a trope one might want to ferret out here; women are shown menaced by stranglers, hostage-takers (in one case the photo of a 1920s bride, with drawn babe in cradle, "The Whispering Master" menacing a woman behind her). There are binaries afoot, of grotesques/beauties, angels/aliens, culminating in the smile of a suave 1950s gentleman in a dinner jacket, flanked by two women. Veronica Lake, Albert Dekker and Lon Chaney all parade by. Loren's use of stills was akin to that of Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, an obvious influence on the young Detroiter's aesthetic. In 2011 one also can't help but ponder the persona and imagery of Lady Gaga, "Lady Monster" and her adoring "monsters" (fans), and how the Destroy All Monsters of 35 years ago might react to her. Defending her artistic integrity in May 2011, Detroit MetroTimes rock critic Bill Holdship asserted that Lady Gaga was "More Niagara than Madonna".
The face of a gauzy beauty gazes at us, Loren's "Winter on Skull Mountain" prose-poem lettered in the margins. More Finlay, Gustave Doré artwork along with the Metaluna Mutant from "This Island Earth," in an ad for "Blackout in the City," a song by a new band with Loren, the Miller twins, and Rob King called Xanadu, recorded on his Black Hole Records label. Joanne Worley grins at us again on a page of bright green, which also reprints Punk rock zine reviews of singles by Destroy All Monsters (unfavorable, "just a girl singer posing on a musical background of swirling metal jive") though mixed for Xanadu. More reviews of Destroy All Monsters follow, from CREEM, PUNK, Trouser Press, some reprinted illegibly. PUNK magazine's John Holmstrom, like Loren a practitioner of hand lettering in his publication recounts how Loren came by their 10th Avenue office for an interview," rambled incoherently and was considered by all to be a dangerous nut. He flipped–"nervous breakdown"––and left the group. A promotional text for Black Hole Records makes effusive Lester Bangs read like terse Hemingway or Stein: "got to have a ghost to get a ghost...a trance is coming...petolpeyotlispotent [sic]...the music sits like a vegetable sex organ all day long at night rotting a naked virus. . . . " If there is a biographical subtext to be found here, it has grown increasingly hermetic. Loren told WDET that he was thinking the magazine "as a picture novel by the end, with its old Hollywood imagery, Creature Feature captions, promoting our new band Xanadu, running "anti-Punk" rants." Destroy All Monsters had, alas, became "just Punk" under its Asheton/Davis hegemony.
In the issue, science fiction illustrations by Virgil (credited "Virgal") Finlay appear, and a Gustave Klimt drawing. Nineteenth century imagery of photographers and printers affirm Loren's interest in craft, the issue "printed at Wayne State University in Detroit and Albert's [Copying] in Ann Arbor." Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw are thanked in the credits. Perhaps Loren's now-Californian friends took him to the Hollywood Bookstore and "Barthalamew's" Movie Store? The back cover says Destroy All Monsters in Art Nouveau type, and reprints an illustration from a Frank Baum Oz, novel circa 1900, with its caption "Good-Bye Ozma! Good-Bye, Dorothy!" Behind this curtain, to what is Loren bidding farewell? To his past art rock collaborators and their collaboration? Or to another mid-western girl, who skipped beside him on the perilous road to their personal Punk Oz, Niagara? One is tempted to complete the caricature, with Mike Kelley as Tin Man, then-shaggy Jim Shaw as the Cowardly Lion, Loren as the Scarecrow. We're off to see the Warhol. . . .
A spray painted piece of lined notebook paper is inscribed "Lily Tomlin". Cut-out ransom-note letters above a Virgil Finlay dragon inform us "This is the Lost Issue! of Destroy All Monsters Magazine". This unpublished seventh issue in 1979 included several pages of color copies; but are these "xeroxes" as described or made upon a Canon electrostatic copier, distinguished–and utilized by artists like Loren and Yañez–by its separate passes for yellow, magenta, cyan and black? In these pages, Loren has shifted the image for off-register effects or its appearance only in a single color. Some faces from 1960s television shows "Leave It to Beaver" and "The Addams Family" are hand-colored with markers, pencils and pens. Laughing (near-hysterically) people in bathing suits are superimposed on girly playing cards; perhaps this is Mike Kelley's, for he recently wrote an appreciative introduction to a Taschen anthology of the 1960s humor magazine Sex to Sexty. The Metaluna Mutant from "This Island Earth" patrols a forest of palm trees on wallpaper, the seven-headed Great Beast of the Apocalypse is labeled "A Death-Defying Trio," and other monsters abound. Perhaps Niagara, by this time a Punk rock persona getting notice, feels like the woman she drew here with multiple hands grasping at her body. An erotic story by Jack Smith is reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley's story "Under the Hill." The swirly, paisley marker drawings may be by Link Yaco, and, while the spiky vampiress drawn on burned notebook paper is probably by Niagara, it resembles drawings by another Ann Arbor rock singer, Carolyn Moon. One collage using images from 1940s-1960s color magazines suggests Winston Smith's work. The blocky logo from the movie, ZULU, and animal pelts suggest a nascent interest in popular Africana. A couple contributions by Kelley and Shaw were either sent back to Michigan or previously left with Loren; a lamb image from a Catholic children's catechism, and the double-entendre "He comes in a cloud" suggest Kelley's hand. New revels in layering, color copying technique, color applied to isolated images, all suggest this creative periodical could have kept going well into the 1980s had Loren so chosen.
In 1995, Mike Kelley had a retrospective of his artwork at the Whitney Museum and decided to bankroll the release old basement tapes of the foursome. Loren then published a collection of old and new work called Destroy All Monsters: Geisha This. The troupe reassembled for projects in Europe, Japan, and at the Seattle Contemporary Arts Center (2000) and the Detroit Institute of Art (2003). Niagara, however, had pretty much lost interest in the old arty boys.
Ars longa, vita brevis. Still, it's nice to see an artist in mid-life reaping appreciation for an inspired early burst. The contemporary reader appreciates Destroy All Monsters Magazine as a funky Cass Corridor upon a historical road, one that includes Wallace Berman's Semina magazine as an antecedent, and collage zines by D. Bolleri of San Carlos, California as a frisky descendant today. Cary Loren assembled these pages for the viewer to interpret, to decode, to (a motivation in the 1970s) look at stoned. It is imbued with messages of menace, its TV Eyes looking back at you in celebrity opacity, portentous, freighted with history. Like a good thumping, droning rock song, there is a rhythm to Loren's almost-reassuring repetition of imagery, familiar faces recurring in the crazy swirl of visual information.
Yet for all of Loren's ransacking of history, grasping for gorgeous or ghastly idols, to assemble on the page his own universally synchronic troupe of emblematic superstars, there remains the haunting presence of the singular muse. The same photo of Niagara, sprawled on a basement floor with a knife, is apparently from the Super-8 movie Cary and Niagara made (possibly prior to the coalescence of the initial art-gang band) for the song the duo wrote, "You Can't Kill Kill". The reader of the complete Destroy All Monsters Magazine, collected between covers, notes that the image appears in both issue #1 and in the long-unpublished #7. Perhaps even harder to kill than kill, is–in all its creativity, yearning, contradictions and heartbreak–love.