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Tag Archives: Mail Art

Postcards Exhibition

There are two exhibitions at Fortyfive Downstairs by Marco Luccio: “New York Postcards” in the main gallery and  “Immaginario” in the small gallery. It is difficult for one artist to fill the enormous space at Fortyfive Downstairs (I don’t think that I’ve seen a single artist do that before) with work of a consistent quality. This is especially impressive given that most the art in these two exhibition are small works that would each look good by themselves in a someone’s home.

Marco Luccio uses a variety of printing techniques. In “Immaginario” he uses monotypes to create fantastic miniature landscapes, very much in the tradition of Max Ernst’s Surrealist decalcomania landscapes. In his “New York Postcards” Luccio mixes rubber stamps and etching with other mixed media using antique postcards both as a support and an “impedimento”.

However, this “impedimento” on the post-cards, the printing, stamps, postmarks, and ink handwriting is largely ignored. The function of the postcard has been removed by making them art. Likewise the connection between NYC postcards, Luccio’s the neo-classical drawing style with the heavy lines, horses, and bodies appears arbitrary.

In an artist’s statement in video form Luccio refers to the postcards as “artefacts”; as they were antiques I wanted to know the source of the postcard, how were they acquired. Three vitirines offered clues about their construction; filled with materials and old albums of postcards they showed some of the process of their creation.

Although Luccio knows art history, he shows photographs of himself sketching in the Metropolitan Museum, he appears to be unaware of the mail art movement. One of the largest (by number of participants) art movements of the twentieth century, mail art, also known as the “New York Correspondence School”. It used the postal system both to distribute art and play with, as in Ben Vautier’s postcard The Postman’s Choice (1965) with a place for a stamp and address on both sides.

I was intrigued by the poster advertising for this exhibition because it reached Coburg.

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In the Post

Mailbox Art Space, formerly Mailbox 141, in Flinders Lane is the perfect location for this mini retrospective of Pat Larter’s mail art from the mid 1980s. Mail art was an international, underground art movement from the 1960 to the 1990s. It was the analogue equivalent to the internet driven, artistic side of street art.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Mail art incorporated aspects of print art, conceptual art and in Pat Larter’s case performance/body art. “Sex drama artist” is the text on one of Pat Larter’s publications. Another image is titled “‘artist action’ swinging the bag”. Photos of Pat wearing a bra with scurried faces sewn in the cups. In another photo she sits in a stiff parody of a poor porn pose, wearing fake breasts and fake vulva.

I like Pat Larter’s anti-erotic, laugh at pornography, making art from slippage between the public display of what is usually consumed privately; it is a more realistic approach than the current neo-con attitude. Pat Larter’s attack on the boys club of mail art, her ‘Female art’ rubber stamp is a pun on male art. There is a photograph of the ‘Female art’ stamp on Pat’s shaved armpit.

Pat Larter uses several print techniques include rubber stamps, photocopy, photographic and Print Gocco.

The mail boxes in the lobby of 141 Flinders Lane are full of zines, rubber stamps, props from photos and a some ceramic objects; a breast, a penis and an apple core. This exhibition shows that even a very small artist run space can host a significant retrospective exhibition.

For more on Pat Larter:

“Pat Larter from Kitchen to Gallery” by Joanne Mendelssohn

“In defence of bad taste: the art of Pat Larter and Lola Ryan” by Gemma Watson


In the Post

“Every day is like Monday now.” Terry, the postman told me in the first week of December. And adding to the increasing load of mail was Brunswick Arts Space’s exhibition, fund raising and mail art project, Going Postal.

The artists have donated the work to the exhibition and a silent auction is running throughout the exhibition. Fund raising auctions are a common way that Melbourne artist run initiatives (ARI) get sufficient money to keep going, as they have no sponsors or government grants.

The art, artist’s letter (often with instruction on how to assemble of hang the art) and envelope, postal tube, cardboard carton or other packaging was all displayed. This system of exhibiting gave coherence to an otherwise disparate exhibition of drawings, collages, CDs, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, postcards and other things sent to Brunswick Arts by post. There was no selection and what ever was posted was exhibited under whatever name the artist choose; this included an invite to participate in a group exhibition in Portugal. The exhibition brought out the jokers along with the usual ARI artists, like Anne Kucers of Trocadero Art Space or Alistair Karl of Brunswick Arts Space.

Mail art was a big underground art movement back in the 1970s, before snail mail was overtaken by email. One of the aims of Mail Art was to provide an alternative to gallery art, so it is odd that it has now returned to galleries. This did not stop Mail Artists like Ryosuke Cohen from Japan in participating. There was also a Fluxus found sound 7” single from Keith A Bucholz in the USA; Fluxus used the postal system like no other art movement since Dada and the subsequent Mail Art movement was influenced by Fluxus attitudes.

The heaviest work posted must have been Liz Walker’s postcard made of found steel-plate. With postcards like these small wonder postmen are complaining.


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