Making a Splash

  • Posted on Jan 17, 2010 by

Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing was founded in 1976 by Leonard Koren in Venice, CA. The first issue in May/June of that year was a modest 8 ½” x 11” black and white paper pamphlet. In this issue, Koren introduces the magazine to his audience: “Wet is a magazine devoted to upgrading the quality of your bathing experience. Hopefully, in the great American tradition of Coca Cola, doggie diapers and Pet Rocks, Wet will become one of those things you never imagined you needed until you find you can’t live without it.” Early issues of Wet include articles about bathing, showering, hot tubs, personal hygiene, food, and yoga. Two of my favorite articles include "Toothpaste Ratings" in no.2(1977:Dec./Jan.) and "Frozen Dinners" in no.4(1977). Both of these articles highlight the humorous, playful, and arty attitude of the magazine.

Averkieff, Irina. “Toothpaste Ratings.” Wet 4 (1977): 8.

From Tom’s Natural Fennel Toothpaste to Crest to Pepsodent, Irina Averkieff rates 28 different toothpastes based on “flavor, texture, visual appeal, and packaging.”

Irena Averkieff gives a breakdown of seven different frozen dinners. Her results: “…you get what you pay for. …Unfortunately, you have to put the food into your mouth in order to get it into your stomach.” Wet expanded after the first few issues to include color covers, and articles on art, music, and fashion. In 1979 the magazine doubled in size and began to feature articles on a range of celebrities like Brian Eno, Kenneth Anger, Jim Carroll, and Captain Beefheart. Despite the change in content and design, Wet still managed to stay in tune with its original funky and humorous D.I.Y aesthetic. In v.4:no.3 (1979:Nov./Dec.), a fake menu collage for "The Salvador Deli" features an “All you can eat Debuffet Dinner”, “Francis Bacon and Eggs,” and “Alice Aycocktails.” Number 18 (1979:May/June) includes an article on the history of bottled water in America from Perrier to Poland Springs, and v.4:no.5(1980:Mar./Apr.) has an article on Eskimo clothing.

Wet is a magazine like no other. In its 34 issues from 1976 to 1981, Wet covered a huge range of topics from hot tubs to the art of Ed Ruscha. In content and design the magazine managed to combine the aesthetic of 1970s Venice Beach culture, Los Angeles punk rock, and California hippies. The Museum of Modern Art Library owns almost the entire run of this title. These issues can be viewed at the MoMA Library location in Queens, NY.

--Rachael Morrison, Library Assistant, The Museum of Modern Art

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