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.
At James Makin Gallery the gallery attendant hands me a price list, a postcard and a folded card color catalogue, more bumpf. At Utopian Stumps I was handed a “room sheet” – a price list, in other words. I must say that I do use the price lists; I scribble my notes on them when looking at the exhibition as it saves me from copying down names of artists or titles of art works.
But now all this art gallery bumpf is building up in a pile in the corner of my office. It hangs like snowdrifts on my bookshelves. There is a massive pile in my intray, like a massive snowdrift of room sheets, catalogues, postcard invite, business cards, threatening an avalanche onto Dignity, the cat. I have resolved to clean it up. I take one at random from the pile; Dignity sensing imminent disaster leaves the room. The pile remains in place.
What is this A4 page about? It doesn’t even have the gallery name on it – that goes straight into the recycling bin.
There is so much of this art gallery bumpf. The ecological impact of this material is often ignored in considering the artist’s environmental footprint. My advice to artists and galleries is to save a forest and do it all electronically. Use Facebook and email invites, PDF catalogues, artist and gallery websites. PDF catalogues are in many ways superior to printed paper catalogues because they are economical, document the exhibition equally well, require less space to store and increases the difficulty of forgery (such as the forgeries retrospectively documented by additions to catalogues as in the case of John Drewe.) However, the archival value of PDFs have yet to be proved.
I sort through more of the pile. There are all these business cards; this one says – “artist and interior decorator” – that doesn’t sound good.
The tangible item of a gallery catalogue can be a beautiful publication in itself, a well written thought provoking essay about the artist and more images. Those ones go in the files or even on the bookshelf. I screw up another “room sheet” and get Dignity to chase the ball of paper under the coffee table.
I get most of my invitations to art exhibitions as PDF files sent by email but galleries still produce the DL and postcard invites. These are often the only tangible souvenirs of the exhibition unless a catalogue is produced.
The image on the invitation is normally one of the works on exhibition, hopefully an inviting, attractive and representative work that makes people want to see the exhibition. This creates problems for group exhibitions as crowded or jarring compromise designs are created for the invitation.
I collect exhibition invites I have an album of them and a shoebox full of them. Reviewing them, many look the same; there is a colour image from the exhibition on one side and information about the exhibition and opening on the other. There is not much creativity in art exhibition invites. Many art galleries use a particular format of invite as a brand identity.
The most creative invite that I’ve ever received was written on the cut side an A4 pencil – it suited the exhibition of pencil drawings too. I used the pencil, of course so I can’t find the details. Some creative efforts are not so worthwhile; I am glad that people gave up on the idea of the transparent invite back in the mid 90s. Recently these invites have become larger but bigger is not always better.
I especially like the bookmark format invites, I use them and I also have a collection of bookmarks. I am still using Alister Karl’s bookmark invite to his show “The Drawn Image” at Brunswick Arts many years ago.
Paper Initiations is a blog that features scans of paper invitations of contemporary art exhibitions from around the world. It is an extensive and very focused blog for those who want to keep up to date with the latest trends in exhibition advertising.