Bath House presents the anti-junk mail
By TOM SIME / The Dallas Morning News
Mail art is alive and well, and asserts its continuing vitality in the e-mail world with "Mail Art Extravaganza," an exhibit at Bath House Cultural Center. The genre made its mark before you could hit one button and send a picture to 10,000 people.
Mail art is artwork distributed among a network of artists and aficionados by worldwide post instead of through the museum-gallery exhibition system. Even though it's a rebellion against the white-walls scene, every once in a while it's fun to gather up examples for gallery display, as curator and artist Julie Jefferies does with the Bath House exhibit, which goes on view Friday. There's a reception Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Most followers credit the eccentric artist Ray Johnson with producing the first mail art in the 1960s. He'd send collages and photocopies of his work to friends, who'd pass them on, sometimes with embellishments, a practice that grew into the New York Correspondence School.
Mr. Johnson firmly refused to exhibit his work any other way during his lifetime, which ended when he jumped off a bridge in 1995. He probably would have had mixed feelings about his first formal exhibit at New York's Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair later that same year.
Mail art resonated well with the practices of the conceptual Fluxus group of New York artists (best-known alumna: Yoko Ono), which spawned "Fluxus Bucks" of the kind artists still adorn and distribute, and which figure in the Bath House exhibit ("Virgin" Fluxus Bucks will be available if you want to get in on the game).
Mail art peaked in the '80s, and some said it died with the rise of the Internet, which might seem to have made ephemeral, conceptual networks obsolete in object form. But people love paper, not to mention getting stuff in the mail, so it's tempting to predict that mail art will never die – not by rain, sleet, snow or spam. Mail art may be to e-mail what painting is to the camera and movies to television: the ancestor that refused, despite many obits, to die.
The exhibit continues through June 28 at Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther at Northcliff on White Rock Lake. Featured artists include buZ blurr of Arkansas, Sticker Dude of New York, A.1 Waste Paper of the U.K., Peggy Eigler of New Mexico, Linda Hedges of Wisconsin, Rudi Rubberoid of Washington state, Ryosuke Cohen of Japan and Dr. Victoria Fluxbuxenstein of Texas. In addition to Saturday's reception, there are other special events:
• On June 21 from 5 to 7 p.m., there'll be a panel discussion on mail art and a free workshop with visiting artists on artist trading cards, making rubber stamps, doing "faux cancellations," altering books and documenting mail art.
• On June 28 from noon to 4 p.m., there'll be a closing mail-away event in which "everything that came in (or most of it)" will be sent back into the postal system.
Concurrent with the mail art exhibit is the exhibit "Mother-Daughter: Sculpture and Mosaics by Gladys Gostin and Rita Gostin Conway," also June 6-28. The reception for this show will also be Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Go to www.bathhousecultural.com for more information.