1955-1990. Item #4789
Piero Heliczer (1937 – 1993) was a poet, filmmaker, and publisher active in underground art scenes, working and living between New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and London. Born in Italy, the Gestapo killed his father, a resistance leader, during World War II. He and his surviving family moved to the United States after the war. While attending Forest Hills High School in New York, he became friends with Angus MacLise, who would later become the first drummer for the Velvet Underground. Heliczer entered Harvard in 1955, staying two years before moving to Paris. Once there, he and MacLise founded The Dead Language Press in 1958. The duo began letterpress printing now-rare books and broadsides of art and poetry, including Jack Smith’s The Beautiful Book; A Pulp Magazine for the Dead Generation by Henk Marsman, Om, and Gregory Corso; and Heliczer and MacLise’s own respective works.
In addition to his work as a fine printer and poet, Heliczer was an underground filmmaker and actor. Upon his return to New York in 1962, he fell in with Warhol’s Factory crowd, to acting in several Warhol films while also making his own. He appeared in Jack Smith’s groundbreaking Flaming Creatures, and collaborated with a wide cross section of New York’s avant-garde acting in several Warhol films while also making his own. He appeared in Jack Smith’s groundbreaking Flaming Creatures, and collaborated with a wide cross section of New York’s avant-garde scene, including Jonas Mekas, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Tuli Kupferberg, Gerard Malanga, Harry Smith, Charles Henri Ford, Ira Cohen, and others. His films were often presented as multimedia happenings, with bands providing a live score, most notably with performances by various iterations of The Velvet Underground. However, the recognition afforded to many of his contemporaries did not find Heliczer, and by the 1980s he was living a nomadic lifestyle, mostly on the streets and suffering from drug addiction. He died on July 1993, age 56, in a moped accident in France.
Alongside The Dead Language publications, this archive contains a collection of manuscripts and correspondence, holographic letters, typescripts, and vintage photocopies, sent predominantly by Heliczer to Jonas Mekas and Ira Cohen. The archive also includes works by Piero Heliczer published in magazines and small mimeo publications, spanning from his first published writing in the Cambridge Review while a student at Harvard in 1955 to his mature work in 1975. A significant portion of the poems included in these small publications later found their way into Heliczer’s books, like The Soap Opera and Abdication of the Throne of Hell. This archive presents a close to complete survey of Heliczer’s career and life. Featured as well are many authors who championed or published alongside Heliczer, including Angus MacLise, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Gerard Malanga, Jonas Mekas, and others. The archive is housed in one bankers’ box and one museum box.