Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ray Johnson, Mail Art and the NYCS

The New York Correspondence School was established by Ray Johnson in the early '60s; it was singularly the most important contribution of Ray Johnson to the history of art, a point missed by leading newspapers and art magazines reporting Johnson's death. It was Fluxus and Ray Johnson's NYCS that birthed mail art, the largest international art community and movement in the history of art. Membership into the NYCS was bestowed upon anyone Johnson chose to correspond with and the exchanges were wonderful, intimately engaging verbal and visual play. Throughout the 1960s til his death, Ray Johnson was the conduit, the server, the proto-internet dada daddy surfing the mailstream, invading mailboxes everywhere with bunnies, imaginary Fan Clubs, and correspondance wordplay.

Mail artists around the world embraced Johnson's notion of making ordinary mail an art of extraordinary wit and beauty. Johnson's legacy lives today in numerous gatherings of mail artists such as the NYCS Salami Chapter which paid homage to Ray's passing at Katz' Deli. On Saturday, April 29 over 200 of Johnson's friends and members of his NYCS gathered at Friends Meeting House (Rutherford Pl. betweeen 2nd and 3rd Ave.) where he established the first NYCS gathering in April 1962.


What is Mail Art?

Correspondence art (Mail art)

Term applies to art sent through the post rather than displayed or sold through conventional commercial channels, encompassing a variety of media including postcards, books, images made on photocopying machines or with rubber stamps, postage stamps designed by artists, concrete poetry and other art forms generally considered marginal.

John Held Jr. The Dictionary of Art, edited by Jane Turner, Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

All text courtesy of Artistamp Gallery.

Best of luck with all the mail art projects on their snail mail journeys this break.

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