Sunday, May 17, 2015

May Mail

Winter’s finally come to San Francisco and I have been hunkered down getting my book ready.  And still, mail comes in, which is a nice way to mix up the day.  Some of the recent goodies include:
  1. Barbara Stasiowski sure has been eating healthy.
  2. Someone sent Angela Behrendt a Grand Canyon postcard.  She repurposed it and added one of my own Transcontinental Arrows before sending it back from Germany.  This is a great example of repurposing mail art!
  3. A clear envelope full of good things arrived from Carolyn Oord in Québec including some stamps feature churches in New Mexico.
  4. R.F. Côté sent a constellation of fish from Québec.
  5. Otto Sherman sent me an envelope filled with cards and stamps featuring various leaders and wannabe leaders. 
  6. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is another one of the US Department of Energy’s assaults on New Mexico.  Karen Lindquist continues her mail art, environmental activism.   Learn more about the fight against this nuclear waste dump here.
  7. And finally, this fantastic, see-through postcard from My Mail Art in Colorado with dried flowers encased inside the card. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finding Fred Tomaselli Hidden in Orange County

If you love museums as I do, I always suggest joining your local favorite(s).  And, if you can, getting an upgraded membership such as the one I have with the Oakland Museum.  It’s nice to support a much-loved museum, but it also could get you up into the North American Reciprocal (NARM) level.   With my membership, a guest and myself have free access to hundreds of participating museums in the U.S. and Canada.   Before I hit the road, I start at NARM’s site and see what museums will be nearby and what special exhibits are taking place.

With that in mind, I found myself in Newport Beach, California on Saturday.  Away from the beach, it’s a land of sterile office parks and condominiums where signage is discreet and tasteful.  The museum would have been impossible to find without GPS.  But it was worth the effort.

When I realized I had an opportunity to see a new show of Fred Tomaselli’s work at the Orange County Museum of Art, I knew I’d have to head south as part of my L.A. weekend.  Back in the 1990’s San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts hosted one of the best exhibits they have ever had – it was a big show of Tomaselli’s mixed media paintings/collages.  The work incorporated thousands of prescription and non-prescription pills as well as hemp leaves all encased in resin.  That was an amazing show.

The current show, Fred Tomaselli: The Times, fills three rooms and is dominated by a newer direction in his work that began in 2005.  Starting with a front page of the New York Times, the artist modifies the photo by adding paint and occasional collage elements.  The original black and white photos are enhanced with vivid, color details.  The results range from the abstract to geometric patterns, to occasional representational images.  All contained within the boundaries of the original photo.  The modified front pages are then digitized and reprinted, to finalize and preserve the pieces done on unstable newsprint.  The results are often beautiful, even when addressing serious, front page news.  For example, the Hurricane Katrina piece makes New Orleans appear to be inundated by a colorful flood that looks like a mass Sol Lewitt installation.  The pieces seem to work in part because they remain on the pages of the New York Times, rather than removed form their original context.  And surrounded by the original stories, the gravity of the subject matter never seems trivialized even with the colorful art.

Living in San Francisco and seeing some of the exhibits that pass through as over-hyped, blockbusters shows I remain baffled why we, here in the big city, are not getting shows like this one.  I feel confident predicting that Fred Tomaselli’s work is of the caliber where big crowds will line up to see it in museums — a century from now.  In the meantime, we get to see it in quiet exhibits and wait for what comes from him next.

I also need to mention a smaller and complimentary show that is also at the museum right now.  Dieter Roth’s Piccadillies is a series of work beginning in 1969 where the artist took a single postcard of London’s Piccadilly Circus, blew it up and made multiple prints.  Each print was the basis for a new abstract painting with layers of paint that at times follow and mostly obscure the original image.  Seeing an individual piece would be interesting.  The opportunity to have a gallery filled with them and observing the work as a series is the best way to see Roth’s work. 

If you’re in Southern California, you’d better hurry, as both shows close on May 24, 2015.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Poetic Mail and more…

It’s been a busy month sending out mail art and seeing more come in.  Some of the highlights include:

  1. E. Coles sent a poetic piece that asks: “No one can say because neither of you could. She is tough underneath.”  I just want to know how she knew my spatula is orange?
  2. R.F. Côté says “Oui” and I love those Canadian stamps.
  3. Stanislav (aka Virgo) sent a collage piece (front and back shown) that is titled “Ukraine 14-15.”  I also love the colorful envelope and didn’t notice the stamps at first feature the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
  4. The piece from Torma Cauli featured scraps of Hungarian and a Year of the Goat postage stamp. 
  5. Nico van Hoorn’s red x postcard arrived – it felt like good timing as it complements my own Transcontinental Arrow series.
  6. Send some mail art to May Mail Art in Gunnison, Colorado and see what you get back.
  7. Suus in Mokum knows I love grids and patterns, yes, more grids and patterns.
  8. And speaking of grids, Fleur Helsingor latest piece might very well be my favorite so far.  It is an image of sidewalk grids with a few little squares of metallic paper (the scan doesn’t do it justice).
  9. Finally, is it mail art or an envelope full of poetry? Well certainly poetic pieces from Eduardo Cardoso in Portugal.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fancy Animals invade Civic Center

The carnival is in town. Taiwan artist Hung Yi’s Fancy Animal Carnival has been installed in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza.  The whimsical, colorful animals are here until May 7th and adding some much need spring color to the plaza.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Transcontinental Arrows

Did you know that in 1924, across the Western United States, the U.S. Post Office Department installed a series of concrete arrows on the ground as well as steel towers with lighted beacons?  It was called the Transcontinental Airway System and it helped move airmail across the country.  Planes would use the arrows and towers to navigate across the sparsely populated West. 

When I first learned about the arrows, I immediately wanted to rent a car and head east to Nevada and see some for myself.  Not yet, but definitely on the next big road trip.  In the meantime, I am working on a series of hand-painted postcards.  The first ones are being mailed out today.  With elements of the desert, landscape painting, maps and mail art all rolled into one, it’s the perfect art project for me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March Mailness

More things from all over the planet, near and far, have been appearing in my P.O. Box:
  1. Cernjul Viviana sends a valentine from Argentina.
  2. Meral Agar’s latest piece sparkles in 3D with plants affixed to the card and then painted.
  3. Tactile and lovely from Dori Singh with the Jeremiah Howell quote: “Letters are the winged messengers that can fly from east to west on embassies of love.”
  4. Fleur Helsingor sent another image capturing the cool sidewalks of Oakland.
  5. A card arrived from Gregg Biggs, the curator of the Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera.
  6. And finally Adrienne Mason’s card R9 came down from British Columbia.

Thank you everyone, it always makes it worth walking up to Clayton Street.