WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, also known simply as WET Magazine, was created and published by Leonard Koren from 1976 through 1981, first in Venice and later in Santa Monica, California.
What was WET? Why was WET? How was WET? Who was WET? It's complicated. . . . For starters, read the following description that appeared in a London-based art-book dealer's online catalog in 2016 (“Tim Byers Art Books Catalogue 2”). It’s mostly accurate:
“WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing. Nos. 1 - 34. [All published]. Venice and Santa Monica, CA. Leonard Koren. 1976–1981. A complete set of Leonard Koren's revered seventies Venice California lifestyle magazine. WET, notable for its prescient mixture of H2O culture, mild nudity, fashion, and great ads for so many trendsetting, short-lived L.A. boutiques. ‘WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing’ covered an offbeat mix of art, music, and fashion (everything from necrophiliac performance art to the work of Ed Ruscha) in an innovative and influential visual format that helped to define the Los Angeles New Wave aesthetic. In the first issue, editor Leonard Koren wrote: ‘WET is a magazine devoted to upgrading the quality of your bathing experience. Hopefully, in the great American tradition of Coca-Cola, doggie diapers and Pet Rocks, Wet will become one of the things you never imagined you needed until you find you can’t live without it.’
“The concept for the magazine evolved out of Koren’s ‘bath art’ phase, in which he produced works such as the silkscreen print ‘23 Beautiful Women Taking a Bath' and the book ‘17 Beautiful Men Taking a Shower.’ Wet broadened the definition of bathing to include other water-related phenomena such as hot tubs, rolfing, drinking water (“bathing from the inside”), and waterbeds. Gradually the magazine grew to encompass ‘gourmet bathing’ in a metaphorical sense: an eclectic lifestyle grounded in the boundless appreciation of absurdity.
“Starting as a four-page black-and-white zine, it went through numerous format changes, adding colour covers and developing a distinctive graphic style that exploded the modernist grid with asymmetrical, clashing layouts. Virtually any visual or written piece can be given a WET slant. The pictorial and graphical is more important than the textual. (Legibility and readability are seemingly of minor concern.)
“WET’s influential look was said to inform, among other things, the changing style of Artforum, which earned the epithet 'Wetforum' in the 1980s. Throughout its production, WET continued to draw from a variety of artists and contributors. Contributing photographers included Eric Blum, Moshe Brakha, Guy Fery, Jim Ganzer, Brian Hagiwara, Brian Leatart, Jacques-Henri Latrigue, Dana Levy, Claude Mougin, Beverly Parker, Lisa Powers, Herb Ritts, Matthew Rolston, Raul Vega, Guy Webster, and Penny Wolin. WET also included artwork by Rip Georges, April Greiman, Matt Groening, Jim Heimann, Thomas Ingalls, Kim Jones, Jayme Odgers, Taki Ono, Futzie Nutzle, Gary Panter, Peter Shire, John Van Hamersveld, Teruhiko Yumura, and Bob Zoell.
“Complete sets of WET are institutionally very rare. Worldcat lists no complete holdings worldwide. Incomplete sets held by the Getty, Yale University, Harvard University and MoMA."
[Mr. Byers apparently "borrowed" the above text from a book by Gwen Allen titled Artists’ Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art, 2015 MIT Press, page 310. Thank you Ms. Allen!]
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