Mail Art Chro No Logy

Miroljub Todorovic: Artists' Postage Stamps

Todorovic, Miroljub: Artists' Postage Stamps, in: Marke Umetnika – Artists’ Postage Stamps, Srećna Galerija, SKC, Belgrád, 1981 (Ed. by: Slavko Timotijevic)

Mail Art is, at the moment, reaching its zenith. A great number of exhibitions has been organized, in the United States in particular, with several hundreds of artists from all over the world taking part in them. Several thousands of people is included into the communication network of this new artists keep on joining it. It is interesting to note that Mail Artists are recruited equally from the ranks of artists (painters) as well as from among the poets, designers, print workers, and even from among those who seem not to have any touching points with art in their profession.

In terms of theory Mail Art has not yet been sufficiently clarified. Certain theoreticians tend to view it the context of Conceptual Art, as a kind of its extension, its continuation. This view contradicts the unambiguous fact that the Mail Art appears on the art scene prior to Conceptualism. On the other hand, the critics who are more closely related to literature (Spatola, Perfetti) tend to view Mail Art in the context of literature (with its meaning considerably broader than it is in terms of the traditional criticism and theory), that is, as a kind of a new manifestation of the concrete and visual poetry. Michele Perfetti even introduces a new term - Telepoetry. (For more details see Mail Art - Mail Poetry (Poštanska umetnost - Poštanska poezija) Delo magazine N° 2, 1980).

After some hesitation at the beginning, I am more and more determined to view Mail Art as a completely new and independent art form, which is entirely separated from both, Conceptualism and Concretism.

So far, Mail Art has expanded and developed to the point that, even within its own context, some disciplines and subgroups begin to form . The most significant, at the moment, are Rubber Stamp Art and Artists' Postage Stamps.

When speaking of innovators in the field, explaining who was the first, among the artists, to make and use (i. e. send) a postage stamp, art historians cite Duchamp and Man Ray. Hower, the fact is that Art Postage Stamps are for the first time produced in a more serious form by Fluxus Group in the early '60s. The most significant results in this field by the mid 70s are yielded by Italian artist G. A. Cavellini who created several series of stamps. The late 70s and early '80s are entirely marked by Artists' Postage Stamps. The emergence of color xerox, in the United States in particular, greatly contributed to such a situation. The use of this technology offered a possibility to a fast and easy reproduction of colored art stamps.

So far, the most important manifestations of this art form are: Artist's Postage Stamps and Cancellation Stamps, exhibition by Ulises Carrion hekd in Amsterdam in 1979; and Commonpress N°18, International Mail Art Magazine edited and published by New York City artist E. F. Higgins III.

Carrion's exhibition was equally dedicated to both art postage stamps and rubber stamps. A part of the exhibited material (works of 150 artists from 25 countries) has been published in Rubber (a Dutch monthly bulletin about the use of rubber stamp in the arts), with an introduction by the organizer and entitled Personal Worlds or Cultural Strategies?

E. F. Higgins' project. within the Commonpress, relates exclusively to Artist's Postage Stamps. The author of this project has defined the subject - Nudes on Stamps - and the size of the original work which artists participating in the project should send back to the organizer. Although they are bound in the magazine of usual outlook, the pages containing stamps have been printed in way so that, due to perforations, it is easy to separate them and use in interpersonal communication.

Artist's Postage Stamps have also been published on several occasions during 1979 and 1980 by Julien Blaine in the information section of his Doc/k/s magazine.

This year, Libellus, (a monthly Mail Art publication of International cultureel Centrum from Antwerp, with Guy Schraenen being its editor-in-chief), has published, in a similar fashion and similar motives, quite a number of stamps. One of Libellus issues contained Artist's Postage Stamps printed according to and furry respecting the mail rules.

In Yugoslavia, Mail Art is getting a somewhat greater number of protagonists than it has gotten them in period prior to the current increasing interest in it. A valuable theoriticat contribution to Mail Art, and to Avant-Garde as a whole, has been made by Denis Poniž, Siovenian poet and critic. We may openly say that, within the Yugoslav context, he is one of the rare critics who pay their attention to issues dealing with Mail Art. We should not forget Poniž's practical involvement in Mail Art yielding Mail Art products, which has not at all been shadowed by his theortical work, but, on the contrary, these two lines of his activity complement each other harmoniously.

Within the Yugoslav context, Artist's Postage Stamps are currently produced and distributed prosperously by young artists and poets such as JarosJav Supek, Ranko Igrić, Radomir Mašić and Sandor Gogoljak, who deeply believe in innovative character and unconventional form of this insufficiently defined artistic act. The fact that Mail Art and its forms are not a privilege of only young innovators, who are yet to get recognition by Yugoslav cultural circles, is demonstrated by outstanding works by Svetozar Samurović, a well-known painter of the middle generation, who joined them in this movement. His Artist's Postage Stamps are, in fact, minutely executed drawings in form of postage stamps, which once more confirm the fact that Mail Art - this form of art "which is on the margin of art," and which, with its inter-media, interdisciplinary, and even ambiguous nature, "offers... ever changing possibilities" -- does not have its established canons and rules, that it is "alive and open" to all numerous and various esthetical investigation.


Translated by Rachel Nitzwah

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