The Flue

The Flue was a periodical published between 1980 and 1989 by the venerable institution Franklin Furnace Archive, which was founded in 1976 by the artist Martha Wilson to present, preserve, interpret, proselytize, and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, cultural bias, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content. The periodical took on a multitude of media forms and functions, from organizational newsletters to exhibition supplements and catalogs, to scholarly surveys of contemporary and historical artists’ book movements. This shapeshifting approach was supplemented by artists’ projects and a changing cast of editors and designers, most of whom were artists. In total, there were sixteen issues of The Flue across six volumes, and all have been digitized and made available online for the first time here.

From Franklin Furnace Archive’s Founder Martha Wilson:

“The Flue was initially conceived and created in 1980 by artist and master printer Conrad Gleber. Conrad did offset printing for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and with Gail Rubini and Jim Snitzer, was one of three artist/founders of Chicago Books, an organization that established an offset printing workshop to produce artists’ books in collaboration with artist/authors. Offset printing was developed during the late 19th century in England. It had the advantages of producing high quality images of stone lithography with the high speed of mechanical printing presses. By the 1970s many innovations led to a highly refined process that was able to reproduce photographic images and full color graphics making it a natural choice for publishing artists to learn and explore.

Chicago Books’ 1980 exhibition at Franklin Furnace, “Chicago,” included a tabloid-format publication/catalog of the installation; a Flexidisc (a 45 rpm record imprinted on plastic), and Franklin Furnace news. It was such a hit that the organization decided to produce artist-driven publications in any format the artists wanted, from tabloid to poster to magazine; including artists’ pages; and sometimes serving as catalogues to major exhibitions.

Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. published The Flue from 1980 through 1989, engaging artists Laurie Anderson, Vanalyne Greene, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Marja Samsom, Regina Vater, Tony Whitfield, and others, as designers and editors. When Barbara Kruger was invited to design another 1980 Flue, she in turn invited Louise Lawler and Sherrie Levine to collaborate with her on an artwork displayed therein. In the centerfold of that tabloid were four images of a book by Alberto Moravia, photographed from above. Their appropriation contained more than the maximum number of words allowed to be quoted without permission, and Franklin Furnace received a bill from the book’s publisher for $50.  In those early days, this small amount was big money, so I made the archivally irresponsible decision to print this issue of The Flue on newsprint. All told, The Flue numbers sixteen issues.”