Poetry News

Boo-Hooray presents the lifework of Angus MacLise

By Harriet Staff

BOMBLOG has got us dreaming of Lou Reed's "dream person" -- that's the Velvet Underground's first drummer, Angus MacLise, who left the band when he realized that having a paying gig meant he had to start and stop playing when he was told to. Being the band's original percussionist may be what he's known for, but MacLise was also a poet, composer, and artist who was active in New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, and Kathmandu in the 1970s.

(The New York Times featured Angus on Friday, with a curious look-see into his life and work.)

Curators Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron of New York's Boo-Hooray (best name for an art venue so far today!), are presenting the first overview of the lifework of "a major American 20th century artistic polyglot," which includes a citywide art exhibition, sound installation, and film series:

MacLise was a collaborative partner in the early 1960’s with art groups and individuals such as Fluxus (George Maciunas, Yoko Ono), Theatre of the Ridiculous, and Jack Smith. As a poet, MacLise began publishing in partnership with high school friend Piero Heliczer in the late 1950’s, establishing the Dead Language Press in Paris, widely acknowledged as one a most significant small artist book presses of the 20th Century. Together with his wife, artist and underground press illustrator Hetty MacLise, he edited issue No. 9 of the magazine-in-a-box, Aspen, considered a hallmark of American publishing.

While residing in Nepal, he formed the Bardo Matrix/Dreamweapon Press with Ira Cohen, issuing poetry in limited editions on handmade rice paper. The press published Paul Bowles, Charles Henri Ford, Gregory Corso and Diane Di Prima among others. MacLise also published his own works and edited the poetry magazine Ting Pa.

On Summer Solstice 1979, MacLise died from hypoglycemia in Kathmandu, and was cremated in the fashion of Tibetan Buddhist funerary rites.

A suitcase of Angus MacLise’s artwork, publications, and manuscript as well as more than 100 hours of recorded music was left with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela for safe-keeping thirty years ago. This extraordinary time-vault is the foundation of the exhibition, with additional materials drawn from private previously unseen collections and archives.

We just missed the opening party, but Boo-Hooray will be celebrating MacLise, with the collaboration of Anthology Film Archives, who will also be screening Ira Cohen’s counterculture classic, THE INVASION OF THUNDERBOLT PAGODA (1968), from May 10-May 29.

Originally Published: May 11th, 2011