What is Mail Art? (1)
So, you want to learn about mail art history. Here are two starting points:
Angie Kordic’ story How Did Mail Art Develop into a Global Art Movement? (Widewalls) regards the mail art movement “as the anticipator of the cyber communities founded on the Internet today because of its spirit and the idea of creating virtual groups of people bonding over a common interest”. She then introduces different types of mail art like artist stamps, collages, copy art, and decorated envelopes.
Lucy Ives’ article In 1971, Both the USPS and The Term Mail Art Were Born (Art in America) is a roundup of fifty years of development. It includes a plethora of names, some of which are well known from other fields of art like Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein, Yoko Ono, and Jean-Marc Poinsot.
The author switches between the spheres of art and down-to-earth-descriptions of artists’ problems. Ken Friedman’s goal to send all kind of unusual objects by mail “required not only precise knowledge of acceptable dimensions and packaging rules but an ability to negotiate with postal workers, who themselves became more intimately involved in the work of art in the case of a bulky or unusually shaped package—perhaps more to their annoyance than creative fulfillment”.
The Oberlin College Mail Art Collection contains some 25,000 pieces from the 1970s to the present, but only a part is accessible through their website.
The online exhibition covers the years 1977 to 2004 and shows some 1,000 works by 35 artists including Lancillotto Bellini, Claudine Barbot, Dick Higgins, Hazel Jones & Michael Leigh, Patricia Tavenner, and Chuck Welch.