Alongside the music and art scene that burgeoned in downtown New York in the 1970s and ’80s was a renaissance of do-it-yourself publishing. The magazine Redtape combined experimental poetry and prose with boundary-pushing art and comics. Shepherded by Michael Carter, a poet, critic, musician, performance artist, and squatter, Redtape scraped by for ten years, with a final count of seven issues. Gallery 98 recently acquired rare copies of four of these issues, along with invitations to issue launch parties at Danceteria and other clubs.
Redtape is rich in literary contributions, from the likes of Kathy Acker, Max Blagg, Gregory Corso, Constance DeJong, John Farris, Miguel Piñero, and Ed Sanders, and art contributions by David Wojnarowicz, Mike Cockrill, Kiki Smith, Kembra Pfahler, Barbara Ess, Joseph Nechvatal, Greer Lankton, James Romberger, and others.
Redtape #1: “For the Left Side of the Brain” is notable for Michael Roman’s five full-page illustrations (including on front and back cover). Though Roman is best known today for his drawings of skeletons, these collages and portrait drawings in Redtape are every bit the equal of his later work.
Redtape #5: “White Lies” is remarkable for Julius Klein’s inventive design: the issue appears to be wrapped in the cover of an old National Geographic, with letters cut out of the “National Geographic” name, and the phrases “White Lies” and “Redtape 5” spray-painted with stencils.
Redtape #6: “The Cracked Mirror,” saw the publication jump to a massive 11″ x 14″ (the same dimensions as LIFE), with a haunting cover photograph by Greer Lankton.
It would take six years for Carter to follow it up with what turned out to be the magazine’s final issue, Redtape #7: “Tragicomix,” published in 1992. As the East Village of the ’80s gave way to gentrification, James Romberger’s painting “The Triumph of Death (after Breughel)” made for an all-too-fitting cover.