Mail art by IUOMA member Kosmo Vinyl (New York, New York)
September 8, 2017 - Ray Johnson’s mail art network brought avant garde art to unusual and unlikely locations around the world, created a network of like-minded people that is still thriving and inspired new generations of artists who found a not-insignificant audience and support. So I am thrilled to have received this large postcard work on sturdy cardboard from none other than the artist Kosmo Vinyl in New York City.
With a red bunny-nod to Ray Johnson and some glam retro-popart for good measure, Kosmo Vinyl helps make humble Auburn, New York an Eternal Network destination! I’ve seen Kosmo Vinyl’s work here at the venerable IUOMA site and I am very pleased to have this original work for the archives. (That’s one of the added benefits of mail art: Real art.)
Since the days when Yoko Ono regularly responded to correspondence at the Dakota, the mail art network has been populated by fascinating and wonderfully talented people willing to make themselves accessible.
An accomplished contemporary artist, Kosmo Vinyl is one such figure. First, his cultural involvement goes back to the London Punk scene and specifically The Clash and Ian Drury and The Blockheads. In terms of mail art, this is of special interest.
As the history of mail art is increasingly explored, it has become apparent (to those who didn’t already know) that Punk and mail art are connected. When one factors in fanzines and cassette tape culture, the movements are inseparable. But mail art’s underground roots have made it notoriously hard to study (for those of us interested in such pursuits). The internet provides considerable illumination. We are consistently discovering people and work that provides an increasingly comprehensive overview. It’s great to be able to give an added context to Kosmo Vinyl.
For several generations, I contend, Ray Johnson’s conceptualism was supplanted by Punk’s anti-art stance. (My view is that RayJo lost influence and relevance in the face of the Fluxus, Neoist, Punk, Anarchist (among others) hordes that seized an opportunity.)
So for the Eternal Network, it is always significant to find artists, musicians and writers who got their start in the Punk movement. We can learn about their work and how they have evolved. (However, not every artist will “go gently” to the idea that they are now revered as an “Historic Figure.” So I hasten to add that Kosmo Vinyl’s career to the present moment is vital.)
Kosmo Vinyl’s personal narrative shows the evolution of an artist from Punk roots to a far more expansive aesthetic. In fact, he mirrors the trajectory of the lives of thousands upon thousands of networkers. (Some estimates indicate the zines, music and art that traveled globally through the network in the 80s reached millions of people through a kind of fever-pitch cosmic chain letter momentum).
And the network’s alternative culture has advanced across the ensuing decades. What has been the result of this huge cultural experiment? We can best view it and understand it through the trajectories of the individual artists. So make sure to learn more about Kosmo Vinyl. You can find some great material here:
In classic mail art fashion, Kosmo Vinyl attached a Fluxus stamp. Time for a close up:
Deepest thanks to Kosmo Vinyl for thinking of me and Auburn. And thank you, Kosmo, for your contributions to the current Eternal Network!