Though I had seen Esopus on newsstands before, I really became aware of the magazine after seeing the great documentary Marwencol (which is conveniently on Netflix instant watch, if you haven’t seen it yet.) The magazine was the first to publish the work of Mark Hogancamp, the subject of the documentary. The goal of the publication Esopus, as well the foundation and art space of the same name, is to distribute unknown or little-known artists’ work in an unmediated form- meaning without commentary or advertisers’ influence.
The issue currently on newsstands is the 10th anniversary issue. The format is a box of thin booklets designed to look like file folders, and each folder contains never-before-published notes and visuals from the archives of an individual contributor. Matthew Weiner’s folder includes his scribbled notes about plot and character development for Mad Men, written on random envelopes and slips of paper. Dean Wareham contributed his hand-written lyrics and notes for Galaxie 500 songs. There is a really fascinating file of photographs, collected by artist Mark Dion, showing in-progress dioramas for the Museum of Natural History and another filled with beautiful marbled paper from the collection of designer Dick Sheaff.
Also included in the files is a CD in which ten musicians (including Wesley Stace and Sam Phillips) have recorded songs about specific personal belongings, which are pictured in the booklet. Seeing and reading about each chosen object gives a satisfying glimpse into each songwriter’s inspiration and process.