Mail/Art/Book : An Exhibit

co-curated by Jennie Hinchcliff and John Held, Jr.

Curated by Jennie Hinchcliff and John Held Jr., MAIL / ART / BOOK explored the intersection of artists’ books and correspondence art and how the two genres influence each other. Zinesters and artist bookmakers have continually utilized the postal system for sending, receiving, and pushing boundaries – all in the name of art. Artists who make books or zines often share and swap with each other, sending copies to like-minded readers and getting the word out in any way they can. This incredibly open, democratic way of interacting with an audience mirrors postal systems throughout the world. Anyone can send a letter anywhere, provided they affix the correct postage and have legible handwriting. No judgment, no censorship, just an equal exchange of ideas.

This exhibition drew on these notions of egalitarian creativity and imaginative cultural production while simultaneously investigating the geographic role of the American West in these cross-genre movements. Hinchcliff notes that, “The West Coast has always been an artistic incubator; specific pieces in the exhibition show us that there is a rich history of small press, mail art, and conceptual art working together, in order to create something entirely new. Wallace Berman’s Semina 7 is a reminder of the spare beauty of ephemera gathered together, while Lowell Darling’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E and Ace Space Co.’s On the Road highlight that there was a time before the internet, when performance pieces were done for friends and other artists, not necessarily the world-at-large.”

While MAIL / ART / BOOK examined the historicity and fluid symbiosis of cross-genre “making” it also drew the viewer into the present. Again Hinchcliff writes, “There is a renaissance happening today, an excitement about participation and idea sharing. While this can take many forms and shapes, one of the most interesting manifestations happens to be in the world of artists’ books and correspondence art.

The 100-page, four-color catalog designed by Maureen Forys of Happenstance Type-O-Rama shows every piece of exhibition artwork along with deep backgrounding essays by the curators on contemporary correspondence art and the history of West Coast mail art; the softcover catalog retails for $40.  Copies of the catalog are still available.