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Book review: 'Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973-1977'

January 4, 2012 |  9:00 am

Return of the Repressed

"Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973-1977"
Mike Kelley, Dan Nadel, eds.
Prism / Picturebox $34.95

Destroy All Monsters, the infamous '70s performance art group based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been the subject of several publications that manage to maintain its anarchic edge of post-adolescent energy, throw-away humor and dead-serious insanity. "Return of the Repressed" is the latest. Published in conjunction with an exhibition at West Hollywood's Prism Gallery, it focuses on the drawings, collages and prints of now-celebrated L.A. artists Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, plus the off-kilter photographs of Cary Loren and fractured fairy tale images by Niagara (she took her name from the 1953 movie, a noir masterpiece that made Marilyn Monroe a star).

As befits a proto-punk group that erupted from the American Rust Belt's collapsed economy, this paperback edition is a bottomless pit: Most of the hundreds of works reproduced in it haven't been published before. Equally pertinent is the smart introductory essay by Nicole Rudick, former managing editor of Bookforum. Rudick sources what she rightly terms the "sui generis" work's inspirations in everything from composers Sun Ra, Harry Partch and John Cage to artists Jean Dubuffet, Asger Jorn and Joseph Beuys.


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— Christopher Knight