What why WET?
WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing was founded in 1976 by artist, publisher and writer Leonard Koren in Venice, California. Over a period of almost six years, WET published thirty-four issues and established itself, first on the U.S. and then on the international scene, as a place for editorial, graphic and narrative experimentation, attracting an entourage of artists, photographers, designers, and writers, invited to voice their boldest visions and intuitions.
The concept of “Gourmet Bathing,” literally a connoisseur level of bathing, voluntarily escaped from any rigid definition: on the one hand it put forward a covert parody of the growing world of luxury magazines, on the other it represented “an assault on good taste and linear thinking,” a metaphor for an approach to life in which sensuality, humor, seriousness and absurdity overlap, becoming tools to observe and untangle some of the social customs of the time. The evanescent and allusive nature of “Gourmet Bathing” allowed the magazine to make room for increasingly heterogeneous content, with the sole and persistent intention to tickle and disorient the expectations of its readers.
Through the gaze and voice of its founder, the exhibition traces the trajectory of WET from its origins—the magazine began as an outgrowth of the bath parties, a series of eccentric events organized by Koren to thank his artistic collaborators—until its closure in 1981. On the walls of the exhibition space, almost as if they were the pages of a large-scale magazine, Koren stages a process of retrospective self-interrogation which, through a series of questions and answers as well as textual and visual fragments, allows him to lay out the complex imagery of WET both in its editorial and social manifestations. The audience is invited to further activate this dialogue by using markers, available in the exhibition room for the duration of the show, to add notes, comments and reflections in the lower margins of the visual and textual apparatus. The narrative is completed by an acoustic intervention, a set of musical tracks that reconstruct the soundscape that characterized and nurtured the magazine’s editorial office.
LEONARD KOREN (New York, 1948) who trained as an artist and architect, was the founder and publisher of WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing. Koren subsequently wrote and designed numerous books about art, design and aesthetics. Among them are Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers Poets & Philosophers (1994) and Musings of a Curious Aesthete (2020).