The Early History of Avalanche

Liza Béar and Willoughby Sharp


The Early History of Avalanche chronicles the conception and production of Avalanche magazine between 1968-1972, as well as the artistic milieu from which it emerged and to which it bore unsurpassed witness, through a tapestry of firsthand accounts. Founding editors Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp describe the magazine’s production in detail (the period in question saw the publication of its first six issues) and critically reflect on the artistic trends and movements of the time, to which their legendary publication was devoted and to which it served as a vital outlet. Described by its creators as “a cross between a magazine, an artist book and an exhibition space in print,” Avalanche aimed to air the perspectives of artists themselves rather than those of critics. It featured extensive interviews with as well as writings and works by figures such as Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Hanne Darboven, Walter De Maria, Jan Dibbets, Philip Glass, Barry Le Va, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Gordon Matta-Clark, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Yvonne Rainer, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner and Jackie Winsor.

In keeping with Avalanche’s prioritization of the interview format and of its subjects’ perspectives, Bear and Sharp’s essay, completed in 2005, gives equal ground to the voices of a number of their associates. Acconci, Nauman, Rainer, Winsor, Peter Schjeldahl, and others—sometimes quoted from the period in question, sometimes speaking retrospectively—discuss their own work, Avalanche, and the New York art world of the time, often in vivid detail.

Willoughby Sharp and Liza Béar founded Avalanche shortly after they met in 1968. At the time, Sharp was a New York-based independent curator and Béar an underground magazine editor who had recently moved to New York from London. They published the first issue in 1970 and collaborated on thirteen issues from 1970 to 1976.

5.75 x 8.25 inches
14 pages