Mail Art
December 13, 2004 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Nick Bantock's gorgeous Griffin and Sabine series is based on mail art, a medium with a long history. Developed in the mid-20th century by Ray Johnson and his contemporaries, today the community thrives, with the internet allowing dissemination beyond the reach of point-to-point mail.
posted by dmd (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mail art. Huh. Very cool.
The one that "with" links to has a pretty vague history of 20th century art, but still, I learned something new.
posted by SoftRain at 9:10 PM on December 13, 2004

My mother gave me the first three books in this series when I was in high school in the early 90's - sadly, I've lost them in the shuffle of moving about through life since then (although they're probably in a box somewhere in my parents' home, or so I hope!) These books were astoundingly beautiful - page after page of removable letters and post cards, designed with the care and attention that two heartfelt lovers would pour into their missives to one another. The beauty and fragility of these missives - and the very nostalgic, very immediate and tactile experience of handling them - is something that an entire generation (and following generations) will likely never experience. The sterility and utter intangibility of e-mail and instant messaging makes me wonder how much we are losing, culturally, for the sake of convenience and brevity.
posted by bwilliams at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2004

Oh, God. Griffin and Sabine... those books are so... luscious. It's the only word I can think of to describe them. The artwork seduces your eyes, and the stories just sort of melt into your head. They're.. I don't know. One of the truly great artworks of the 20th century, in my mind.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:13 PM on December 13, 2004

Really nice post, this is what a like. I can tell you put some work into this. I particularly like this link. And I'd love to get one of these in the mail.

But for some reason, those Griffin and Sabine books bug the hell out of me. I guess its because I was working at a library when those things were popular, and keeping them all in one piece was a total nightmare. They scarred me.
posted by marxchivist at 10:32 PM on December 13, 2004

I've loved those books since I was very small. Great post!

The end of the G&S series was always very...not scarring, exactly, but disturbing to my 8 year old mind.
posted by stray at 11:55 PM on December 13, 2004

i loved those books. i adore mail, both sending it and getting it (not bills or ads! real mail, letters handwritten or typed in unique fonts from friends). i wish i could find someone to exchange mail art with...i'm a beginner so it's not like my stuff would be amazing, but it'd be so fun. i'm going to explore your links more and see if there's a way to connect with someone who'd want to exchange. it would be cool if MeFi had a list of members willing to exchange mail art! thanks for posting this.
posted by rio at 1:50 AM on December 14, 2004

The thing that most attracts me to mail art -- and the reason I never send an undecorated letter these days (even email, quite a lot of the time) -- is that the presence of art may compel the recipient to retain and reread correspondence which they might otherwise discard or ignore.

The creative forces of the format are also inspiring. Check out this past MeFi thread on The World of Donald Evans (the link in the original post no longer works, but many of the ones in the thread do). Amazing work.

(Rio, a mail art list sounds like an great idea.)
posted by Kikkoman at 6:14 AM on December 14, 2004

...don't complain when they eat you.
(A fave of mine from his galleries.)
posted by Shane at 6:47 AM on December 14, 2004

To learn more about Ray Johnson, check out How To Draw a Bunny. It has interviews with Roy Lichenstein, James Rosenquist, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Chuck Close and others discussing their experiences with Ray Johnson. It's really great!
posted by Bear at 7:23 AM on December 14, 2004

Those interested ought to check out Umbrella Magazine, produced by Judith Hoffberg (who's been mail art-ing since the good old days). The zine has kept tabs, contributed to and supported the mail art community for nearly 30 years. Hoffberg is deeply knowledgeable and her writing is crazy charming.
posted by verysleeping at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2004

great post. I have been a sucker for bantock's style for over a decade now. He's got some non-griffin&sabine books as well, which are also gorgeous.

The Envelope is the Museum
posted by shoepal at 2:03 PM on December 14, 2004

I met artist David Young the other day in Seattle. Check out his Faux Post gallery.
posted by strazzle at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2004

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