Lionel Ziprin (1924-2009) – 2

Lionel Ziprin and Allen Ginsberg, at the Small Press Book Fair, New York City, December 2, 1990 – photograph by Clayton Patterson

On the extraordinary Lionel Ziprin – continuing from here  

The importance of archives, the importance of archival preservation – not only “The Rabbi’s Basement Tapes”. There were, on Lionel’s death, an extraordinary amount of valuable materials that had accrued and that needed to be saved.

Harry and Lionel (along with Joanna, Lionel’s wife (Joanne Eashe), and film-legends Bruce Connor and Jordan Belsen) were, for example, all involved, at one time or other, with the remarkable Ink-weed Studios. (You can follow that story here – John McWhinnie‘s groundbreaking show for Glenn Horowitz Booksellers, “From Inkweed to Haunted Ink – The Beat Greeting Card”)

Joanna Ziprin design for Inkweed Studios

A few years later came Qor Corporation, “an enterprise devoted to the design of abstract patterns to be adhered on mylar sheets to wall tiles and surfaces of various ornamental use”.
The 2013 exhibition at Maccarone in New York curated by Carol Bove and Philip Smith gave a first focus to that.

Harry Smith design for Qor Corporation

Bove, fortuitously, has found a space (at least temporarily) to store the archives. Smith has committed the same scholarly attentions that he’s already committed to his name-sake. The Maccarone show  (“Qor Corporation: Lionel Ziprin, Harry Smith and the Inner Language of Laminates”) was certainly a labor of love, but it also brought up some issues (issues that poet-critic John Yau brought up in his detailed (and yes, another one!) essential review for Hyperallergic)

“While the exhibition title lists Ziprin before Smith’, he writes, “the focus is on Smith. It contains artwork by Smith as well as drawings and designs he made for the Qor Corporation’s tiles. There are also some models, pages of plans, and pages of unsigned drawings, which are stored in plastic sleeves and pinned to the wall. These drawings were most likely done by Ziprin, with others making additions. They were not meant as art, which is perhaps why the curators did an upscale presentation of Smith’s work”…

A drawing by Lionel Ziprin (featured in “Qor Corporation: Lionel Ziprin, Harry Smith and the Inner Language of Laminates”) – photo by Eve Aschheim

“In the end, I differ with Bove and Philip Smith, who made Harry Smith the focus of the show…They.. privileged Smith over Ziprin, which is not unexpected given the nature of his production, but this was nevertheless disappointing.”

Also featured in the show were hints and revelations of Ziprin’s comic book work and of his poetry (of which, more anon).

Regarding the former, David Katz again: “Through the late forties and into the fifties, Ziprin also cranked out comic books for Dell Publishing. At the time, DC Comics had a lock on the superhero genre.

Lionel: ‘You couldn’t write about Superman or space. Dell made contracts with all the movie companies and I wrote a series of comic books on every battle in the Pacific and European theatres. They gave me the theme, or movies would come out, big movies; they handed me the script, and I had to put it into comic book form. All I got was ten dollars a page – six boxes, balloons and lines, and I had to sign away everything, that it was not my property, no credit. But I was America’s best-selling writer of comic books, my comic books sold in the millions of copies.”

Particularly noteworthy was his work (anonymous, of course) on the first ten issues of the comic-book series Kona – Kabbalist esoterica integrated into American mass-market comic books. No, really! You can’t make this stuff up!

Lionel Ziprin – Photograph by his granddaughter, Aishling Labat, taken shortly before his death, Feb 2009

Lionel and Joanne Ziprin – photo by Kenneth Johnson

to be continued

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