Mail pouch Mercury

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While organizing some photo files I ran across two images from Paris-based American artist Matthew Rose that I should have shared long ago but will do so today in the spirit of this is great and you should see it.

Rose is one of the stamp artists featured in the “Axis of Evil” exhibit that we saw and loved last year at Nexus Gallery. The show travelled on to Chicago and to controversy. (See Axis of Evil thread in our Old Hot Topics at the left, and see Rose’s website for more of his art).

I had an email back and forth with the artist about mail art and stamp art and he actually sent me some of his stamp art — and then, a miracle, a piece of mail art. I’m fascinated with the whole genre of mail and stamp art. Somehow in the world we live in where everybody does email and fewer and fewer people write and use the postal services the whole enterprise seems quaint. And yet it’s timeless too, arising from an impulse to communicate across geographical space with other people of like minds and create a kind of community. Almost like a blog in a way but in the real, slow, wrinkled and weight-concerned world where it costs $0.37 to move an ounce of paper. Speaking of moving things I guess that’s one of the nifty things about mail art–the circuitous route of travel the art takes to get to your door. It’s like a performance piece by the Post Office only they don’t know they’re doing it. Kind of fun to think about.Rose’s piece of art arrived in my mailbox naked, not wrapped in an envelope or secured in a box. I think it was rubber banded together with some magazines and junk mail flyers. It’s like an overgrown postcard with an image on one side and a message, address and stamps on the other. I’ll call it “Mercury,” because I don’t know if it has a title but I like it. Isn’t Mercury the messenger? And isn’t there..or wasn’t there a car that was a Mercury?) The piece measures 11 3/4″ x 9 1/4.” (that’s the piece up top, standing on my stoop leaning against the front door.)
“Mercury” is a photo collage with a nice real world element — a piece of wood glued on at the top right. The only other glued on element is the blue letter “C.” All the rest is Photoshopped or somehow photo-collaged and printed on paper, including the six USA 1-cent stamps which I — and the Paris Post Office — mistook for the real thing. (Notice the Paris-Daguerre Post Office cancellation mark on the little bird stamps. See the image big here.)

The image shows a detail of what looks to be a photo-interpretation of the famous surrealist painting “The Lovers” (1928) by Rene Magritte. I did a little Googling around and found this page on Art the Magazine with an article written by Rose himself (he’s also a writer and editor) about the Italian artist Valentina Loi who happens to have made a film called “Les Amants (Homage a Magritte)” (2003). Voila! That’s got to be the source for my mail art image, n’est-ce pas? (image above is the Magritte painting and below is a film still from Loi’s film).

It’s somehow fitting that a mail art piece mailed from Paris, the City of Love, reference a Surreal image having to do with love. Also, it was mailed to the City of Brotherly Love at a time when the Surreal master Salvador Dali was having his blockbuster exhibit at the PMA and some of the real world stamps that moved the work from point a to point b are three Dali centennial commemorative stamps, each costing 1,11 Euros.

On the message or reverse side, the hand-written note from the artist says: “Dear Roberta, Please enjoy this exciting collage by Matthew Rose in your home or office.”

It’s embellished with a drawing of an airplane pulling a banner that says “The Paris Correspondence School.” There’s a parachuting stick figure who says “Holy Merde!” because he’s going to land on a prickly pear cactus drawn to look bigger than the airplane. There’s also a boat out of water at the bottom.

That’s Rose’s faux art stamp “RIEN” in the right corner along with three standard-issue postage stamps. The Paris Post Office has dutifully hand cancelled “RIEN” along with the rest. (image. see it big here.

Somehow I would love to have been a tiny camera riding along on this art for its journey through Paris and over here to Philadelphia and to my front door. I guess that’s part of the thrill of mail art — imagining the journey and all the hands the thing passes through before getting to its destination. The signs of handling, which for any other piece of art would be considered flaws and damage, here tell stories about passing through machines and into and out of hands. The tears, wrinkles, and knicks are like marks of character. This piece was made. And it made it here.

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