New Exhibit | Circulating the Avant-Garde

illustration of two masked women, one smiling, and the other with a look of concentration

Front cover of The Yellow Book, volume 1, April 1894. Special Collections Research Center.

The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to announce a new exhibit, Circulating the Avant-Garde: Aesthetic Counter-Publics in the Little Magazines, 1890-1920. This exhibit was curated by Kayla Grant, PhD candidate in English literature.

Thanks to advances in color lithography and photo-engraving as well as resurgent interest in small-press publishing, richly illustrated and typeset “little magazines” flourished between 1890 and 1920. The materials collected in this exhibit showcase not only the variety, beauty, and originality of turn-of-the-century print-making, but also new ideas about what a magazine can do: namely, create distinctive communities around avant-garde ideas outside of mainstream channels. The communities imagined in these magazines are sometimes explicitly political or aesthetic, but more often both combine in writers’ and artists’ resistance to mass-market, industrial, bourgeois, and nationalist print cultures.

text "Whom the Gods love die young no matter how long they live" with illustration of a book between two lit candles
Back cover of The Fra, January 1909. Special Collections Research Center.

The magazines in this exhibit are mostly American and British, but many are distinctively cosmopolitan, crossing borders to engage with international movements like socialism, decadence, and modernism in their attempts to create an audience united by aesthetic and political ideals rather than nationality. Although the little magazines’ resistance to mainstream journalism shortened their lifespan and restricted their circulation, their experimental approach has had a lasting impact on our sense of magazines as flexible aesthetic and social media.

To see the exhibit, visit the Special Collections Research Center exhibit gallery (660J) between now and October 3. The space is open Monday-Friday, 8:30-5, with evening hours until 8pm on Tuesdays.