West Coast School by Stan Askew (Pasadena, California, USA)

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Mail-art by IUOMA member Stan Askew (Pasadena, California, USA)

October 1, 2014 - This is the first mail-art I have received from Stan Askew in California. I offer many thanks for this fine package of wonderfully crafted work.

The piece above – best described as an Artists Trading Card (ATC) – is a postcard size work on thick, durable cardboard. The piece is marvelously clear, brilliantly composed using a studied formalism and is a fine example of contemporary mail-art that reveals a self-referential knowledge of its history and the genre. For instance, note the preoccupation with stamps (used as an element of composition) and popcult. The card draws into question accepted notions of vertical/horizontal. Here is the reverse side:

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For several years now, I have advocated a theory of the existence of a West Coast School of mail-art in the USA distinct from the East Coast (that has a more general tendency toward abstraction and anti-art). I believe Stan Askew is a unique practitioner of the West Coast School, offering some important innovations in a lineage that includes several generations. West Coast School members include, but certainly are not limited to, well-known figures such as Mike Dickau (Sacramento, CA); Jokie Wilson (San Francisco, CA); Carla Cryptic (Berkeley, CA); and joey a.k.a. Patrickt (Oakland, CA), among others.

Testower in Washington State is certainly a representative of this group. RCBz (Minnesota, USA) is the first mail-artist I know to mention a West Coast School based on a popcult realism dedicated to clarity and craft. David Stafford (Santa Fe, New Mexico) confirmed the validity of a West Coast School (I consider him a member) and suggested Mel Ramos is an important unifying influence. This idea, of course, can only be based on generalities; there are numerous exceptions and hybrids. For instance, I believe Susan McAllister (Berkeley, CA) has far more in common with the East Coast School.

The work above was carefully protected in this sleeve:

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Stan Askew’s departure from popcult realism is evident as well.

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Stan askew also kindly included two, unaltered vintage New York City cards:

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This one is very nice:

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The envelope echoes all the aesthetic elements consistent in this mail-art:

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Again, many thanks to Stan Askew in Pasadena for this wonderful work.

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