April 22, 2008


This morning the painter Matthew Offenbacher handed out two folded 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of brownish paper printed on both sides and with the title “LA ESPECIAL NORTE 1” across the top.

And that marked the arrival of a brand new Seattle artist “newsletter”—a thing like a zine, but not the kind put out by snotty teenagers. This is a publication made by artists. Career artists. Artists like Joe Park, Gretchen Bennett, Eli Hansen, and Offenbacher himself. And still, I worried it would be tragic.

The thing is great.

There’s an essay about shit in Seattle art (hence the brownish paper color?) by Offenbacher, and it’s better than most of what passes for essay writing in art magazines, drawing together works from Eric Elliott’s paintings to Susan Robb’s transformation of her dealer’s shit into art in a show opening this Thursday. (Offenbacher declares Stranger Genius winner Alex Schweder “our old master of [the] genre.”) What else? Porn by Hansen, Bennett’s personal, narrative “philosophy of street art,” Park’s interview with old-time Seattle curator Chris Bruce, and a reprint of Robert Smithson’s 1972 essay “Cultural Confinement,” which seems to suggest that Seattle artists are bristling below their polite surfaces.

As for images, there aren’t pictures of art in La Especial Norte, there are drawings of art. Which is better. (There’s a detailed scribble of Jenny Heishman’s Mud Thing, for instance—seen for real here—and a sketch of a 2005 staged wedding between artist Steven Miller and a pile of dirt. Bonus: I had no idea Steven Miller “married” a pile of dirt!)

I have no idea where you can get a copy. But the masthead-like thing on the back page says to contact northern.special@gmail.com for more information. It also says La Especial Northern will come out two or three times a year. I’m ready for the next one now.

—Jen Graves