Tony Martin, Curator/Executive Director of the Comox Valley Art Gallery wrote …
The Mail Art Olympix
This international exhibition was curated by Ed Varney who, in 1970, was one of the first Canadian artists to participate in what became the “Mail Art Network.”
Mail Art has continued to flourish as an alternative art strategy up to the present.
The Mail Art Network had its origins in the late sixties as artists around the world began to exchange works of art through the postal system. It was an early form of social networking between artists, and the transactions took place outside the “art world” of galleries, museums and the art market.
For some artists, Mail Art was a means of meeting other artists through the medium of their work, for others it provided a network of fellow artists in other countries to visit. For others, particularly artists living under repressive governments, Mail Art provided a window on the world and an opportunity to make their concerns known.
New York conceptual artist Ray Johnson (1927 – 1995), is considered the father of “Correspondence Art”, another term for Mail Art. Mail Art had antecedents in Fluxus and before that, in Dada. In the beginning, it was a one-to-one network, each transaction was with one other person and the network expanded by the exchange of personal mailing lists.
This exhibition also includes an authentic 19th century mail box where the public was asked to select their favourite artworks by “posting” their choice in the mail box. Also on display was an 18th century stamp perforator, both items part of Varney’s collection.
Comox Valley Art Gallery