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Book of the living


Artblog contributor Matthew Rose’s exhibition A Book About Death is in its last week at the Queens Museum. Catch it before it ends Nov. 15.


Rose organized the exhibit/book, in which some 500 artists made a new piece of art about death and produced 500 postcards of their piece. The postcards are what’s on view — either stacked on the floor or pinned to the walls.

The Queens exhibit, which opened Nov. 1,  is the second outing for A Book About Death, which debuted at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery in New York in September.    In the first iteration, the postcards were stacked on the floor and viewers were allowed to choose a selection to make their own personal postcard book about death and take it home with them.  At the Queens Museum, a curator has selected individual postcards to hang on the wall and, in special workshops related to the show, viewers can make their own postcard about death.

The exhibit pays tribute to Ray Johnson, collage artist and originator of mail art, and to Emily Harvey, whose Emily Harvey Gallery in the 1980s was dedicated to showing conceptual art by Johnson and New York Fluxus members.  The foundation continues to support the arts after Harvey’s death in 2005 from cancer.

Matthew Rose
Matthew Rose

Rose is himself a collage and mail artist and a printer who runs a small digital press in Paris where he lives. Recently he won a $5,000 prize in an international stamp art competition focused on baseball images. Rose’s winning stamp, “Rubens Rounding Third,” is one he stuck on an envelope and mailed me earlier this year. The faux stamp — which looks pretty real — made it from Paris to Philadelphia with nobody challenging its authenticity. And now it gets a prize!

Matthew's stamps. Check it big to see the hand made perforations and the postal cancellation.
Matthew’s stamp, Rubens Rounding Third. Check it big to see the hand made perforations and the postal cancellation.

Rose organized A Book About Death by reaching out to artist friends, including his 1500+ Facebook friends.  That he got 500 artists to participate says much about Rose as a networker, and also shows how much artists a) like the subject of death, and b) like to make postcards (500 postcards cost around $100 or so).

Rose’s postcard for the show/book memorializes his mother Doris, who died shortly before the show opened. Rose is looking to organize more Book about Death shows. Get in touch with him if you’re interested in hosting one.

Postcard from the show. All postcards are viewable at the project's online archive.
Postcard from the show. All postcards are viewable at the project’s online archive.

Here’s an archive of the project with all the postcards.