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Mail Art Bulletin: Outside the Envelope

I encouraged one of our summer interns, Jocelyn Silver, to try on Peri Lee Pipkin's mail art submission. No luck. (click to enlarge)

Today’s additions to the Mail Art Bulletin come from California, London and Florida.

I want to mention that over the course of the last few month I’ve discovering that my preconceived notions about mail art (a hand-drawn or -printed item in a carefully prepared envelope) are antiquated. The examples below demonstrate how the category can include a great deal of diversity — and these are only a few.

Twitter pal J.D. Hastings of Berkeley, California, has sent us a beatifully sewn book of painted canvas, magazine pages and textiles. Created like a patchwork quilt, the object arrived tightly bound into a bundle that looked like something from a bygone era. Each page is filled with a target that reaches the edges of the page and a single strip shoots through the form.

Titled “Clockwise” (2011), the covers are covered with wave-like forms and even indicate the correct orientation to view the pages. The artist is no stranger to cutting up canvas and creating new things with the painted strips and forms. The object feels like a talisman. It’s sturdiness and ability to wrap up into a tidy package using the attached string gives it the mystique of something you’d bring along on a long journey. It also has a worn quality, like an old manuscript on vellum.

I have been pretty disappointed that more street artists haven’t taken up our challenge to create mail art for the upcoming exhibition, but I was very happy Curly joined the fray with his clever stickers, mostly written on postal address labels. His work is often spotted on street around the world, including New York and London. One of the things that differentiates his work from most street artists is his obvious awareness of the greater art world. It is sometimes philosophical — “This scene is a crime” or “This is an abstract composition. It is not text. If it looks like text, that’s just a coincidence.” — often timely and critical — “Who is Ai Weiwei?” and “Dear Christopher Knight, It’s bigger than Hip-hop!” — and usually pretty darn funny — “I’m doing this to help launch my ART career” and perhaps my favorite, “Mr. Brainwash doesn’t read his reviews. He weighs them.” All of his folksy stickers are signed with his signature flourish and, like all good street art, they reflect on the world around them but also engage in a secret dialogue with those who seek out urban hieroglyphics. As an aside, Curly’s tweets are pretty funny.

Peri Lee Pipkin of Oakland, California (is this him?) mailed us a whole ensemble, complete with hanger. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to wear this to the opening of Presents (I’m tempted), but I was reminded how much of what we get via snail mail is no longer letters but packages of merchandise from online sellers.

Finally, Sheree Rensel mailed us an authentic bottle filled with Floridian sand and shells. A voodoo doll-like form with a photograph sewn on it that shows a person covering their face with her hand (I’m guessing it’s the artist judging by her Twitter icon). The fabric-bodied figure hangs from the bottle cap, which is sealed with wax and string. All around her feet are slips of paper covered with messages like “Don’t Look” and “Art Here.” It evokes a kitschy tourist souvenir, but here the figure seems impossibly trapped in the container, like a ship in a bottle. Has she sent her avatar in lieu of her attendance?

And remember that the opening for Presents: Three Months of Mail Art for Hyperallergic HQ is Friday, June 17, from 6pm–9pm. You can RSVP on Facebook.

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