Lucky Pierre Swims with the Sharks (Charleston, South Carolina, USA)

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Mail art by Lucky Pierre (Charleston, South Carolina, USA)

July 3, 2015 - I open with this compelling self portrait Lucky Pierre sent even though it is secondary to the concept that unites the components of this extraordinary piece of mail art. The image seems destined to become iconic. The art, however, is about sharks and seas, emanating outward from a single object (or talisman):

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Yes, that is an authentic shark tooth, an unlikely choice to inspire a piece of conceptual art (although Damien Hirst worked in this area on a different scale). The tooth is mounted on one of two pieces of thick cardboard that seem – along with the other contents of the envelope – to want to be part of a boekie. But the pieces remain loose and thus are like ATCs (Artist Trading Cards). Here is the reverse side:

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Here is the second card:

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The slips of paper, when removed from the pocket, correspond to the theme.

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The opposite side is blank. Like an earlier piece Lucky Pierre sent me, a paper clasp is included to hold the material together:

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A narrative is provided by Lucky Pierre:

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A great drawing on the other side:

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This is very much “classic” and complex mail art. Some of the deeply thoughtful pieces made by CrackerJack Kid (Chuck Welch) involving the relationship of multiple objects come to mind as a comparison. This locates Lucky Pierre’s work in the conceptual art-based, Ray Johnson lineage. Yet this work is not simply a retro throwback to 70s and 80s styles. It reflects contemporary mail art as well with its links to folk art and representation. While Trashpo draws from anti-art and often invokes disruption with assemblages of incongruous objects, Lucky Pierre’s work seeks to construct a narrative, although complete coherence and closure are not achieved. The work is, then, more surrealist than DaDa. Most traditional mail art, ultimately, is rooted in DaDa. Lucky Pierre has managed to create something appealing and interesting while embracing some conventions and discarding others. The piece is not an attempt to make mail art as it “should be” but a genuine human expression unafraid to approach the intangible.

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And the other side:

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Many thanks to Lucky Pierre!

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Comment by Ruud Janssen on July 4, 2015 at 7:17pm

Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 4, 2015 at 6:48pm

oops, I meant disingenuous.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 4, 2015 at 6:38pm

At the risk of seeming ingenuous - I am a big fan of your work Angelica Paez. You've seen the "likes," I hope. So I'm glad to know you agree about the folk art. I am sure there are those who disagree. Nik Heed (Sweden) has been a big advocate for the folk art theory, among others. That's an idea I have gotten from others. I believe John Held Jr. has also made statements about the current scene being linked to folk art.

Again, I think the avant/conceptual wing is still the mainstream. I shouldn't have muddied the waters by calling it the "old mail art." Just look in the IUOMA gallery and draw your own conclusions.

Now there is yet another current we see at IUOMA of people who view mail art as, literally, being any art that has passed through the postal system. That has been going on for centuries! And there are some amazing innovators. But that tends to have come from small groups of people isolated over time and space. A global network, what we are part of here, came from Ray Johnson, circa 1950. The network of people is almost as important as the art.

Comment by Angelica Paez on July 4, 2015 at 4:34pm
De Villo Sloan, I always enjoy reading your writings. Especially liked your contemporary mail art / folk art comment below.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 4, 2015 at 4:13pm

Mail-art by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands)

Thanks Erin. For a long time I used a piece expensive art paper colored with dark red chalk and sealed with some sort of spray. I was very conscious of the background. After going through many pieces and having smudge problems, I just finally went over to the construction paper. The red goes well w/ the yellow IUOMA pages, which is mostly an accident. These are reposts from MinXus-Lynxus on Wordpress, which has a different color scheme.

Here is m-a from Ruud Janssen (2011) with the chalk background.

I do recommend Ruud Janssen's work on mail art generations. It put a lot in perspective for me. His interviews with the various artists are excellent too.

Comment by Erin Young on July 4, 2015 at 3:05pm

Well I love it! I'm gonna have to go find me some, I didnt think it was construction paper, I thought more of a tissue paper the way it has the squiggly lines. 

Comment by Ruud Janssen on July 4, 2015 at 2:34pm

Yes, mail-art surely evolved. I have described the generations. Maybe have a look at:

Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 4, 2015 at 2:31pm

Hi Erin, it's just red construction paper you can find anywhere in the USA and Canada, I would think. Funny, last week Joey Patrickt left me a message on FB saying not to use the red background. I guess he thinks it damages the image integrity. Anyone who blogs probably knows there can be problems w/white backgrounds in terms of trying to format and space things. So I'm following Joey's advice but can't drop the red completely.

RES, yes, Crackerjack Kid is an IUOMA member and still active (on FB too) and a historical figure. That's one great thing about IUOMA; there are folks of some note from a number of different eras. Richard Canard (I jokingly call him Quacker Jack Kid) was also a member of the NY Correspondence School. Many I don't know as well. There are a number of Neoists from the 1980s era, including someone who was named a saint in the Church of the Subgenius and someone who was part of a cabal called the 14 Secret Masters of the World. Some folks might remember that.

Comment by Erin Young on July 4, 2015 at 2:17pm

Random question, where do you get the red paper material background!?

Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 4, 2015 at 3:27am

Hi RES, here at the IUOMA and elsewhere you will find discussions about the difference between contemporary mail art and mail art produced during previous decades. A lot of these discussions revolve around differences between pre-internet and internet era mail ail art. A number of people have noted a "folk art" trend in contemporary mail art that is a departure from the past.

I take "folk art" to mean a kind of untrained and naïve art outside of formal art movements and resistant to the aesthetics of the "official culture." Outsider Art can be a more fancy term. Arts and crafts can be. If contemporary mail art is a kind of folk art, then it is consistent with the egalitarian spirit of mail art history.

BUT it is also then a departure from the networked mail art associated with Ray Johnson, Fluxus, Neoism, etc. The "old" mail art was a kind of conceptual art rooted especially in DaDa and other avant practices. That is a far cry from populist folk art. Even though some here at IUOMA who have been doing mail art for many years do not identify with the conceptual tradition, I see the conceptual tradition as being the mainstream in m-a. It is still very pronounced today and popular, even if there is a folk art strain.

People have to get their heads around the idea that the avant is over a century old. It's a tradition. It's a set of established tropes. Some call it post-avant. 

Based on an ambiguous quote by Ray Johnson involving the word "present," many mail artists insist that mail art has no past and we should avoid the historicizing of m-a. Both Fluxus and Neoist figures have taken strong stands against historicizing. I think that has been misunderstood. It does not mean burning the past or disregarding it. It involves, for instance, resisting history being manipulated by institutions to control the economics of the art market. Fluxus itself has fallen prey to this syndrome. We can learn a lot by looking at the past.

Mail art of the network has a history of more than 50 years now. It's not 1969. It's not 1989. I think it is OK to look at mail art's history and study it. I know there are those who disagree with me.

I see veteran mail artists complaining all the time that it was better in 1969, 1979 or 1989. What did they think? M-a was not going to stagnate. It has evolved. More people are participating then ever before, IMHO. They are more diverse. More styles are used. A gender shift, I think, has been a huge factor in change. I believe the folk art strain is a firm part of the contemporary scene. I think the veterans who say "it was so much better back in the day" are negating and trying to deny the current experience. Personally, I think it's better now. Someone wrote to me not long ago: "Neoism is so much more interesting now than when it was actually happening." I agree.

There is a real argument that the "old" mail art was elitist. It was controlled by people like Ray Johnson, Fluxus figures and others who were at the center of the 20th century avant garde. You think that wasn't an exclusive club on a certain level? Of course there was an agenda. Sure, anyone could participate. But it was a secret! It was underground. You had to know someone who knew someone or have gotten very lucky to be part of that exclusive club, at least at one point in time.

The internet has truly opened it up to anyone. And that is changing things. BUT the core dream of an inclusive, participatory culture created in a supportive community persists. And I do think that was the vision of these architects, whoever they were. I called them an exclusive club. But they were the good guys in the sense that they really wanted us all to be free and to give culture back to the people where it belongs.

Don't worry too much about labels, although anyone is naïve to think that somewhere, sometime those battles are going to happen.

Use this as the opportunity to make the art you always wanted to make and share it.



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