Friday, April 16, 2010

The Mail Art Community in Europe: a first hand view (written for Umbrella Magazine - 1982)


Editor's note: GInny Lloyd last July began a trek through
the United States and Europe. First in Cleveland, she produced
artwork and lectured on copy art, under the auspices
of the Image Resource Center. Then in New York City, she
met other mail artists and collaborated with them on some
film and audio works, but the goal was Europe, which she
visited for the next three months. The following is her report
for Umbrella.


I stayed with Bill and Dorothy Wells in London. Dorothy
had organized and shown a mail art exhibit in 1981 and had
also spent several months in Los Angeles. She is best known
in the mail art network for her color Xerox postcards, either
sewn or pinned and collaged. Bill was working on pieces for
his next paper show and inspired me to make several of my
own, something 1 had not done for several years.

I then bussed up to Leeds to visit Michael Scott, whose
wit, information on the network, art and sense of play were
a non-stop delight. He even went on a jog with me one
evening. His inventiveness with words, rubber stamps and
images are always welcome in his mail art. Just seeing his
bathroom door decorated with Players cards is worth the
long bus ride.

Heading west, I then visited Hay-on-Wye, Wales, the town
with the largest bookstore in the world. In fact, the whole
town is one big bookstore. If you are a collector of books
and like to pour over stacks and stacks, this is the place for
you. This also happened to be the area my father's ancestors
lived, making my presence here doubly important.


I had been advised that I would love Amsterdam and my informant was on target. Ullses Carrion of Other Books and So Archive and , Aart van Barneveld of the now closed Stempelplaats were my gracious hosts, while I worked on various projects at both spaces. During my evening breaks, I met with Claudio Goulart, Flavio, Maya and Ronald Wegman, all participants in the mail art network.

The collection at Stempelplaats was unbelievable to see:
rubber stamps from all over the world, some carved by artists
whose names I recognized, the artists' rubber stamp
books and the published catalogues of the exhibitions held
in the gallery made the October closing of this space a great
loss. At the Other Books & So Archive, I was able to pour
over files and files of catalogued documentation of artists'
activities, artists' books, mail art, sound tapes and magazines.
After days of visual overload, I realized it would be impossible for me to see everything. I did more research on my return to Amsterdam, but did not completely go through every file
that interested me.

Amsterdam is full of artists who are respected workers, making
valuable contributions to society. I found the Dutch
very responsive and interested in the lectures, demonstrations
and information I was presenting. They wanted to know
about art in the United States, especially on the West Coast.
Most had been exposed to artwork from New York (I found
this to be generally true throughout Europe) and were
very curious about me as well.

While in Maastricht, I visited V.E.C. headquarters and Rod
Summers. Rod has compiled an extensive audio art exchange
project, working closely with Tom Winter. The audio exchange
archives provided much to listen to and his creative
management of the material was exciting to share. The archives
on mail art and years of correspondence with artists
all over the world was well cataloged. His record keeping is
impeccable. I was able to work on some audio with Rod,
Tom, Bass (another VEC assistant) and Lizbett (Rod's wife).
Their approach to audio was both educational and certainly
stretched my audio perceptions. Rod is also an excellent
writer and shared with me several of his published pieces.
His ability to weave a story is fascinating and will hold your
attention for hours.


Off to Kassel, West Germany, the second country where the native language was not English. Not speaking any other language fluently other than my own version of English, knowing only rudimentary French and Spanish, I was beginning to experience culture shock more than ever. It started In England built up in Amsterdam, where the average Dutch citizen speaks several languages fluently.

Throughout my tour, l used my wits, intuition and nose to get around. I became adept at being able to spot someone who would be able to understand at least a little English, from a distance.

In Kassel, I lived and worked on projects at Kunoldstrasse
34, run by Jurgen Olbrich. Kunoldstrasse 34 Is a unique
space In that many projects utilizing the building and surrounding
area are installations that artists actually live with.
Jurgen seems to have never-ending energy, creating the most
wonderful experimental Xerox books I have ever seen, many
one-of-a-kind. He has an extensive archive and collection
documenting projects held in the art/living space, as well as
archives of mail art and correspondence projects.

Travelling from Kassel to Berlin through East Germany was
very interesting. I have never been so close to the Communism
I had been taught to fear and loathe. You can see where
capitalism ends at the border, feeling the tension level rise
among the passengers on the train. Basic tourist behavior
is certainly not tolerated here. And you are promptly reminded
by your compartment companions not to pull out the
camera for snapshots. I know I could never live there. The
restrictions on movement would not work well with my basic
nature. I was very glad to arrive in Berlin.

Berlin seemed, upon first impression, like the European
New York. The American influence is everywhere with a
curious mixture of buildings that have never been restored
after the war, traffic rushing through the streets and an
overall gloom and dismal grayness that is ever-present. The
city is throbbing with excitement every moment of the day
and night. A continual center of political activity, Berlin
on the same day had a demonstration against the Haig visit
and a demonstration in support of the squatters.

My introduction to Berlin was with a friend, Doris "Boris"
Berman, whose "photo actions'* should not be missed If you
ever have the opportunity to participate or attend one. She
acted as an excellent and invaluable translator for my excursions
and adventures in this exciting city. It was here in Berlin
that the phrase "it is a small world'* came to life when I
ran into a good friend from San Francisco on the U-bahn
one evening.

Political activists are serious here. The front line between the Russian and U.S. military might is personified in the existence of the Berlin Wall. The best graffiti in the world can be seen on the Wall. Artists are continually transforming the messages and slogans, while many original works of art are painted directly onto the wall. Some of the most curious
train rides I have ever had on a subway system were on the S-bahn, the East Berlin subway system. Taking the train to the East Berlin sector and transferring back to the West Berlin
sector can provide a peek into the life across the wall
For me, the direction in my artwork and the German aesthetic values overlap quite frequently. There is a very healthy interest in correspondence art, performance art, Xerox, video, bookworks, and anything that is new and American. The best music in the world can be heard everywhere here. It was with relief that I heard the newest German rock musk and tasted their fine beer.

In Frankfurt, I had the best experience in any bar in Europe.
Here, there was a cave lit by candles, in a huge communal
room with long wooden tables. Everyone sat together at
the tables enjoying an experience much like a Viking tribe.
I happened to be in Frankfurt for the Buchmesse, the annual
book and publishing fair that is impeccably organized and

The fair is primarily a trade fare wjth publishers from all
over the world represented. The most exciting part for me
was the section that housed the artists' books and publications.
Business was the primary activity of the week, and
artists' publishers and artists' presses had an opportunity to
meet with each other and view each others' wares. There
were many social activities and lectures on artists' books
held during that week at the university. Richard Kostelanetz
was on hand to present the works he has developed during
a German government-sponsored grant, the DAAD. Annabelle
Levitt (Tod Jorgensen's store is located at her store
front on Mott Street), was asssistlng John Armleder of Ecart
Books. I later visited them and the Von Furstenbergs briefly
in Geneva, Switzerland. Ecart Books have many hard-to-find
publications. The artist or collector searching for a particular
issue or title should write to them.

While in Frankfurt, I had the opportunity to visit the
studio of artists working with copy art. Hermann Hess and
Bernard Maurer collaborate on paintings derived from originals
made on a copy machine. I also saw the best Polaroid
works I have ever seen at their studio.

In Stuttgart, Angelika Schmidt was collecting the artwork
for her upcoming photobooth issue of Common Press. I had
the opportunity to get a sneak preview when I visited her.
It should be another excellent book by Angelika. She has
been a participant in the mail art network for several years
now, and she has a very organized archive and record of this
activity. All during my tour I was impressed by the collections
and care the artists shared in keeping their archives.
Hans Sohm and I had a chance to meet briefly, and he provided
many insights from the perspective of a collector. He
has what is considered to be the most extensive collection of
Fluxus materials.

A great surprise was meeting up with Henryk Gajewski of
Warsaw. We had tried to connect in three countries and had
missed each other. Neither of us knew we would be in
Stuttgart during this time. Henryk was lecturing and presenting
his film of Polish Punk Rock and his tapes of Chinese
Punk Rock music. A warm and fun-loving man, I pray he
is all right after the recent political unrest in Poland.

I did visit East Berlin briefly with Ruth and Robert Rehfeldt.
They too have an extensive archive and pulled out
works and names that were new for me. They were very gracious
hosts and were glad to have news about friends and
events in the West. While I was there, we did a short performance
together and documented this event while making lots
of laughter and noise. It was quite an ordeal getting into East
Berlin and fortunately it was smooth sailing coming out.
Ruth and Robert appreciate the correspondence they receive
from their friends in the West. It is a vital link between them
and the rest of the world. It was with this meeting that I saw
in action how powerful this network is and can be in all of
our lives. Mail art can make a difference.


With regret I left Berlin for Paris. Paris seems like the largest
outdoor museum in the world. Now I can understand why
during World War II everyone who had experienced Paris
wanted to save Paris from the effects of the war. The French
have an elegance and style that is not matched anywhere.
The food is a sensual treat for your taste-buds.

I did have a chance to attend the opening of the FIACS the
French contemporary art exhibition that is an annual event.
I was generally disappointed in what I saw. All over Europe
it was known that the best contemporary art is being made
in the United States. The consensus of opinion was that our
artwork in progress is the most innovative and most advanced
in the world.

Lillian Vlncy of the Lara Vincy Gallery was extremely
supportive and helpful while I was in Paris, Her gallery is the
most interesting of all of the galleries I visited there. She is
very interested and knowledgeable about what is taking place
in the French mail art network, as well as in correspondence
art in general.

I visited several artists in Lyon, a very active
area for artists involved with contemporary art. I was treated
there, as everywhere, like royalty. A guest of the Art Adventure
space, Lieux de Relations, run by Aubanel and Christian
Van der Borght, I was introduced to the art community in
Lyon. Working in performance, video, copy art, photography
and installations, the artists had an excitement around them
that is not present in Paris. Lyon does not have the years of
tradition and art history that Paris has, making it easier to
break new ground.

While in France and Germany, I had the opportunity to spend time with one of the most prolific writers on contemporary art that is working in France today, Michel Giroud. He recently was involved with a new book
about French and German Dada movements in the 20s and
30s. A very knowledgeable man who is known by just about
everyone I met, he is a wealth of information on the subject
of contemporary art in Europe today.


My first impression of Italy when I stepped off the train was
that Fellini was not so much a genius, as a documentarian of
the Italian way of life. I felt I was living in the "film" while
in Italy. I had hoped to meet Plinio Mesciulam and see the
Mohammed archive, but I was disappointed to hear he had to
go to Rome on business.

Vittore Baroni offered to be my translator during my visit
in Italy, and was absolutely charming. He invited me to travel
to Arte Studio in Ponte Nossa, Bergamo, to do a performance
and to stay with Emilio and Franca Morandi. Arte Studio is located in a village in the mountains and is home to some of the most friendly people I have ever met. Bass, of VEC in Maastricht, was there for a week as artist-in-residence and was presenting a project and performance with Baroni
We all trekked into Bergamo to view an exhibit of experimental
works in an old church. It was so refreshing to be able
to walk into an art show and be able to touch, walk on and
be a participant in the art exhibits, along with the fascination
of the building itself.

On the way back to Forte dei Marmi, Vittore and I stopped
to spend a few days with Cavellini, where we again did a performance.
Cavellini showed us his extensive archives of mail he has received from so many artists. I believe he has the largest mail art mailing list of anyone. He also has an extensive collection of Pop Art artists. And he let us pour over the immense collection of his original pieces. His books do not do justice to his own original works. They are fabulous! His home is beautiful and is a treasure for the lover of carved wood. He has become more serious since the last time I saw him in California, asking about specific artists he had met during Inter-Dada 80 and of their activities. Ken Damay showed the film Cavellini in California to me, and we reminisced
about old times.


I entered Poland on a Leningrad-bound train, full of Polish
people who had been in the west and were returning. I was
the only American and became a bit of a sideshow for those
who had never seen a real live American before. Most were
returning because of the rising political tension and bringing
all of the items they could afford and carry. There were decreasing
amounts of food, laundry detergent, good tobacco, coffee, etc. You were considered rich if you had Western possessions and clothes. My friends had to rise in the morning in order to stand in line at 5 a.m. just to get a meager hunk of bread or radishes or apples.

What I could not understand was
the presence of a beautiful, rich land and the fat cows with
the meager diet provided by the government. The Russians
were apparently taking the best of the products for themselves.
Solidaridad was voting on the latest offer made by the
government and Gdansk was blocked in many sectors to prevent
sightseers and supporters from entering the union grounds.

The weather was warmer than I had expected, and
Pawel Petasz took me on an outing to see the Baltic Sea, enjoy Polish pizza and beer, and to photograph the downtown area of Gdansk. He predicted, as well as his comrades, that the opportunity for me to visit Poland was going to cease any day now, but I would have some valuable documentation of the city, lifestyle and political mood. Lack of money was not a problem for the average Pole. Having something
to spend it on was the problem. The rising political
tension was present everywhere. Talk of the Russian tanks moving into Gdansk and other key cities was common. Pawel's health and artwork were suffering under these stresses.

The Common Press Project, one of the best correspondence
projects directed by Pawel, was becoming more difficult for
him to continue. Censorship was delaying the mails. When I
prepared several pieces of mail art to send from Poland, he
easily edited out the ones that would be censored.

Leaving Poland was much more difficult than entering. The trains
had been cancelled to the West, and I was stuck as I transferred
in Poznan. Thanks to the help and assistance of a
Polish agricultural student who spoke English (the Polish
youth speak very good English), I was able to get to East
Berlin after much delay and a very frightening ordeal. My
visa had run out. The Polish officials could not understand why an American woman travelling alone, who neither spoke Polish or German or Russian would be coming from Gdansk during the Solidaridad unrest.

The Polish people are very special  They are the warmest,
friendliest and most loving (on a basic human level) that I
have ever encountered. Everyone on the trains and in the
towns would go out of their way to assist me, many times
missing train connections they should have caught, etc. They
always did these kindnesses from the goodness of their
hearts, because they enjoy giving. No one wanted anything
in return. I feel tears running down my cheeks thinking
about the fate of the Poles right now. Poland and her people
touched me in a very special way that gave me hope for humanity.
We should all treat each other with such love.

Poland is like a fairy tale land to see. It is quaint and beautiful, as if time had stood still before World War II. Ask any Westerner that has been to Poland, and they will tell you the same about Poland and her people.


Johan van Geluwe of the Museum of Museums was my host
upon my return from Poland. I was treated with luxurious
cooking, a beautiful, warm room and the delightful company
of his mother. Johan, an architect, has taken this interest in
architecture and combined it into a mail art project. His archive
is overwhelming to behold. He may have to build a
wing or a new home soon if it continues to expand.

We were to attend the Mail Artist Encounter held at the ICC in Antwerp, organized by Guy Schraenen. So soon after my arrival, we were off to Antwerp. Guy and Anne Schraenen had done a remarkable job putting together an extensive exhibition of many of the correspondence projects that have occurred over the past decade. They also displayed the works that had arrived for Guy's Libellus magazine project. Needless
to say there was so much work to be seen it took me
several days to see it all. And the work that went into the hanging, installations and organizing was phenomenal.

While viewing the works you were treated to slide presentations
and to audio projects. Everyone was madly trading
work and addresses, rubberstamping, presenting actions, photographing,
greeting each other, discussing projects, past, present
and future. Guy was filming the event for posterity. Tables
with the rubber stamps from Stempelplaats were available
for use. A black and white copier was in another corner
to make art works immediately and the atmosphere was very,
very festive.

Some of the peoplei who were there were Aart van Barneveld, Ulises Carrion, Niels Lomholt, Christian van der Borght, Tomasz Schulz, Guy Bleus, Bart Boumans, Michel Giroud, Rod Summers and Tom Winter (who together did a beautiful sound performance), Henk Fakkeldij, Pier Van Dijk, Robert Joseph, Ko de Jonge, Danny Devos, Gabrielle Donder-Langer, Clemens Jongma, Ka-Mail, Valcarcel Medina, Alburquerque Mendes, Hetty Huisman, Wulle Konsumkunst, Jonas
Wille, Sonia Van Der Burg, P.Nieuwenhuysen, Peter Paalvast, Ria Pacouee, Rolf Sehuber, Eric Van Der Wai, Anniemie Van Kerckhoven, Am Van Oosten, Kees, Jonas Wille, Metallic Avau, Christine Balmier, Luc DeLeu, Lucia Del Sasso, Ron Huiskamp and many others.


The mail art network does work. I was received by artists everywhere who had heard of my tour. Many times they would be in touch with another artist I planned to see, and would send invitations for visits via the mail. Some of the artists I had corresponded with previously; some not. That made no difference, for each artist was eager to hear news about mail artists I knew in the U.S.A., about previous visits to artists in Europe, to meet me and to show me their archives/projects. I completed many projects in collaboration with each artist (either working together or by the inspiration we each shared). Baroni and I did the largest mailing of one-of-a-kind postcards that I had ever done in one day.

I found color copy machines all over Western Europe; Xerox
6500's and Canon. Color machines were treated like some
mysterious technological wonder that could only be touched
by a "trained" operator making this no artist's tool. Black
and white copiers were abundant everywhere—some of the
best I have ever seen. And the most innovative self-service
copy shops are located in Germany. If you are into photo-
booths, they are everywhere in Western Europe, with a lot
more choices of format and styles in the black and white
version than in the United States.

—Ginny Lloyd
P.O.Box 1343
San Francisco, CA 94101.

All the photos in this article have been taken by Ginny Lloyd.

UMBRELLA was a bimonthly newsletter of art news, reviews and art information concerning artists' publications and artists' books. UMBRELLA was published by Umbrella Associates, P.O. Box 3692, Giendale, CA 91201 USA issued in January, March, May, September and November.

Copyright©1982 by Umbrella Associates All rights reserved.
Full rights retained by the author.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The World's First Copy Art Billboard

The Copy Art Exhibition held in 1980 was going up soon but an art billboard would be a great advertisement of both the show and the art medium.

I’d thought of the possibility of having a billboard of copier art for awhile and approached the Eyes and Ears Foundation, an arts foundation supporting public art, for funding and technical support of this project. I proposed installing a copy art billboard for the duration of the show on Market Street near Dolores Street, a main thoroughfare that attracted an estimated 25,000 viewers a day. That’s more than the total foot traffic attending the exhibit.

To create the billboard I called some of the local artists who were in the show to meet me at the LaMamelle gallery at an appointed day and time for a happening – the making of the first copy art billboard. Those that showed up were artists Dadaland (Picasso Gaglione), Tim Mancusi, Carioca and Nancy Frank. I demonstrated the use of the copier and gave basic direction on what I wanted the billboard to look like - life - size images of themselves. Basically it was an improvisation in the spirit of Fluxus creations. The aesthetic was drawn on what I knew most everyone did when told to create art on a copier – they make images of their face, hands, some point in their experiments. I felt that the viewer would be able to connect the dots faster if they saw people and the words Copy Art. Since this was a new form of art the billboard was basically selling the art form.

The previous day, I’d blocked out how many people could fit onto the billboard according to the measurements given by the Eyes and Ears Foundation on large rolls of blank white paper laid out on the floor assisted by Buster Cleveland and Carl Loeffler. Because of the amount of blank space in the background, I created a stack of dot patterned pages out of enlarged fabric swatches as fill-in designs.

We made the copies on a Canon black and white copier donated by Taylor Made for use during the show. The copier was installed at the gallery, LaMamelle in San Francisco.As we were copying ourselves, clothes and creating different images, whomever arrived later - Kazu Yanagi, Rockola, Germ and Michael Mintz - assisted with cutting out the forms, gluing, and blocking out the lettering.

After verifying that the glue was set, I then applied a protective coating to the finished product. The billboard strips were then rolled and numbered for application. Upon delivering the rolls they were hung by the billboard company owning the billboard. 

Since making the billboard, I've met a couple of other artists who have used the medium in the same way - Paulo Brusky in Brazil did a show I participated in 81-82 upon invitation. We met a year later in Amsterdam. Another artist whose name I don't know from Cleveland also did one in '82.

Artists had been altering billboards for awhile, some even showing their paintings in billboard format but this was the first known use of creating one from copiers.

Copy Art Exhibition

I came from a background in photography. I’d experimented with pinhole cameras, Dianas, infrared film, and various darkroom techniques during my years at university. I took traditional art classes, even made handmade paper one summer with my friend Judy Ivry who was an art major so had the equipment available to her, but the use of technology was where I knew I was headed. I used to spend hours late into the night working on Fortran programs for a class, using teletype and keypunch cards. The computer geeks – the ones working night shift running the mainframe so large it was housed in a separate building - would invite me into the inner sanctum to show me early computer graphics capabilities, enthusiastically discussing little known developments and inventions in the works such as the Cray. They told me of the day when everyone would have their own computer and we would be able to create art on computer systems. I believed them!

I wanted to know if anyone had ever created art from keypunch cards but they didn’t know of any. (I later figured out a way. See my future blog to be written on artibooks).

It was the second half of the 70s when the first color copier became available to customers at a local copy shop. I quickly became hooked. Starting with using the machines like huge cameras, I started making still lifes with objects placed directly on the platen glass. Later I was making collages to print. I got so involved with the print quality and color output adjustments I was offered a job running and maintaining the Xerox 6500. This made it possible for me to both do my own experiments at cost and to see the work of other artists starting to use copiers in creative ways. I printed for a lot of comic book artists, illustrators and graphic designers. I took note of who was working as artists using copiers.

At one point I taught workshops on techniques learned from experimenting with copier features, moving originals on the platen during the copy process, and making adjustments on both the Xerox and the black and white machines (also known as copy machine art). (Some of this is discussed in The Creative Camera by Nancy Howell-Koehler, 1989.) The Evening News on a local TV station had me demonstrate how to make copy art.

Noticing the wonderful artworks people were having me copy and doing themselves inspired the idea that a show would be important. The world should see this. At the time I was in the process of preparing for an exhibition of my own work at San Francisco’s Hot Flash of America. I discussed my ideas with them and later obtained support from the copy store owner. The Copy Art Exhibition held in 1980 was born.

As I was pulling together the work to be shown I realized that a more comprehensive exhibit would be possible by including artists as jurors who would give a more balanced view. I invited Stephanie Weber who worked in a fine arts aesthetic and Buster Cleveland who worked in a mail art genre.

As the invitations were sent out and word got around the art work poured in from all over the world. Before I knew it, the time to review the work for the final showing arrived.

But one big hitch occurred...Hot Flash the space for the exhibit was closing!

It was sudden and without warning. I had no space. With Buster’s help, we found that LaMamelle just happened to be available and a new agreement was formed.

I approached Xerox and Canon copier companies for sponsorship. Xerox wasn’t interested – they were launching their own show. Canon however loaned me a new large format copier with reduction capabilities, including paper and technical support if and when it was needed. People attending the show were allowed to make free art on the Canon. With this I made a billboard and the first issue of The Monthly.

Works not already framed were matted and framed by a shrink wrap process and hung by Stephanie with Nancy Frank’s help. I rushed to make a catalog for each artist using both black and white, and the 6500 machines. I did not want to use anything else other than a copier to produce this because I wanted the show to be completely copy art. It has since become a collectible.

Artweek and several other publications wrote positive reviews about the show, much to the surprise of some critics of the art medium. It was through this show I later met Jesse of JES Archive and was invited to the InterDADA 80 event.

All of this helped to make copy art spread quickly in San Francisco as venues to show and sell the artwork opened. A gallery on Columbus Ave in North Beach area named Electroarts moved into part of the Postcard Palace space where several copy artists sold postcard editions.  It also housed a Xerox 6500. At around the same time calendars produced in multiple editions were made by Barbara Cushman of the store and gallery, A Fine Hand. Several artists submitted page designs and they were bound in unusual ways. I still have my copies.

Today I make a few copy art pieces but with the death of the 6500, the lush image quality is just not the same. Many of us who used copiers extensively now use personal computers and printers instead.

Copy art though is still used for chapbooks and small edition runs of art prints and books. The excitement of having an alternative to more expensive printing set in motion the making of a new movement toward ‘zines and postcards. More controversial work could easily get published. Little known but happening in the Bay Area printing industry was a censorship against what you could print. Presses either refused outright or quoted exorbitant rates to discourage anything being published that was seen as controversial. I had a difficult time trying to find a printer to run off a large offset edition of my The Monthly magazine, an all female mail art magazine. Not feminist but to some it was, threatening the pressmen. With issue three I received returned layout boards stepped on and torn apart. The quality of the printing was okay but work was sabotaged. You can see this preserved in some of the magazine's pages.

Nowadays artists can publish a lot on the new print on demand sites. But before this, there was copy art.

What's in the name? Copy art refers to art made on copy machines. Some other terms used are xerography, Xerox art, copy machine art, and electrostatic art. Many artists prefer the term copy art because it is more generic as to the process not specific to a machine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Storefront: 1982 - Part 2

The Storefront became the name of the space in South of Market Area (SOMA) when no clever name was more readily available that identified the space’s purpose. It has since been described as a take off of The Store developed by Claus Oldenburg but his store had an economic purpose – a place to sell his work. No real sales were to be made or imagined at the Storefront (one exception where this did happen is explained later).

When it was established that the building was slated for a tear down by the city, negotiations with the landlord began and he in turn negotiated a time of approximately a year stay with the planning department before it was to happen. Funding scarcity was on my side it seemed. The adjacent lot was to be given a makeover as a park and my storefront was included in the makeover. I personally did not care about the politics for or against the plan. I just wanted to know how long I had to turn lemons into lemonade.

With a possible year’s occupancy, I decided I could call this a “living art project,” hold a show a month in the Storefront window and rotate a series of performances through the space. The idea of a window exhibition space was something I’d often toyed with when walking by Macy’s Christmas window displays. Now was the opportunity, so regardless of the less than ideal circumstances I wanted to give the concept a try. I could always move if it got to be too much.

It was no secret there were homeless in the city and some had gravitated to empty lots or covered doorways of unoccupied buildings. I have a master's degree in social work so I wasn't afraid of the down and out. Heck in the opinion of some family members, I was on the down and out. People were just homeless not heartless. Soon after I moved in I had a discussion with one man who was sleeping in my doorway which made me uncomfortable when I wanted to go in and out the door. He asked if I was there alone and when I evaded the question he was assured me I would be safe. I told him I didn't have a problem with him using the empty lot nearby but not the doorway. He was apologetic and offered to keep an eye out for me with a promise to spread the word that no one should sleep in the doorway. It never happened after that. If there was food left over from an opening, I would leave it at the lot.

The opening event was a performance held in December of 1982 with my friend Anna Banana who had been planning a visit to San Francisco. I painted and spruced up the place. It had a great open space with old brick walls giving it an ambiance that was urban loft goes storefront. Anna and I presented a live radio broadcast in the window space. Friends attended and word got around. This was different.

Next, an artistamp show in January with several artists participating who were in the forefront of this new art form. This was a forerunner of several artistamp shows to come but an important one in that it pulled together artists from around the globe working in the medium at the time. Today a show like this would have a larger magnitude.

In February, I installed the Daily Mail, a showing of the mail art that arrived daily at my mailbox shown in the window gallery. February also included a Valentine’s H’art Attack. The Storefront was the staging area for 50 balloons destined for release in downtown San Francisco. People of San Francisco are a tolerant breed and this “happening” created a ripple of amusement as pedestrians and motor traffic stopped to watch the balloons rise up into the sky.

Bill Gaglione and Rockola performed in March with a window installation titled Day Glos. Also Buster Cleveland hammed it up with a dayglo cross posing as a priest. Also in March Georgina of JES Archives held a Dare to Wear fashion show – models posed in the window. Both were  popular openings. Foot traffic on the way to and from Rough Trade Records, in the next block, stopped by to ask what the space was about. Many were looking for club gigs and heard sometime was happening at the space.

April brought Gaglione’s First Rubber Stamp Store opening. Rubberstampmadness and Stampgraphics wrote about his store. Sales happened. He made the official rubberstamp from my design, and Roc helped with making and hanging the official sign in the window.  Darlene Domel states, from her unpublished essay FROM GAGLIONE TO DADALAND TO PICASSO AND BEYOND, An odd-essay of art:

...Gaglione became proprietor of “The World’s First Rubber Stamp Store”. It was both a conceptual event and a business venture. It was located in the “Storefront” in the SOMA area, a unique performance and art space owned and operated by fellow mail artist Ginny Lloyd whose conceptual ideas complemented his own. San Francisco in the 80s was a center for performance art and Ms. Lloyd’s store was right in the middle of the action.

To celebrate the opening day of the conceptual rubber stamp store he gave away 500 rubber stamps. From that point, on the last Friday of every month over the next year the “store” was open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. It became a retail store, a meeting place and a performance space for many of Gaglione’s rebellious art friends. In the environment that Lloyd created Gaglione and his fellow artists gathered to create hand carved stamps, publications, found stamps and other artistic detritus.

Eva Lake performed as a medium in an installation and Dan Max followed with another performance using window shades and shadows. Busy month.  With each performance or show there was an opening party and many attendees flocked to the sidewalk, creating a buzz in the art scene much like dance clubs would intentionally create later at their doors.

I showed my React/Reagieren project arriving back from Jurgen Olbrich in Germany in time for the May opening. The space also served as the rehearsal space for the Retrogrades, the Fluxus band - I played keyboards. We were getting ready for a performance at LaMamelle.  Also that month the A Movie Star Mail Art Show showed at the Storefront from the James Dean Archive. Huge show and I personally loved the theme.

As word circulated more artists arrived visiting from out of town with ideas for events and exhibits. Monty Cantsin aka Istvan Kantor hosts his Neoist Blood Campaign during June. Curious late night opening party. Istvan stayed at the Storefront for a week and I later participated in his Neoist Campaign during the Apartment Festival while in NYC.

July. I Blast Off to do a residency at the Space Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico leaving a space age installation in the window. No live performances that month - only remotely.

Christy Rupp installed a Polytox Park in the lot next door during August and Bill Gaglione left his Rubber Stamp Footprints at the front door. Buster Cleveland created a Think Japanese show of 30 paintings in the window and wall space. Japanese kimono dress was seen on almost everyone at the opening.

September was Irwin Irwin. A very dramatic performance drawing a huge crowd of young people, most of whom I’d never met. But one of the locals didn’t like Irwin's burnt Bible in the installation I guess for I returned after shopping one day to a broken window. Jack came by looking shaved and cleaned up to let me know he was moving on to go back to his home state. He told me he had painted at one time in his life and he enjoyed being around all the unusual art. He said it helped him understand who he was and how the unusual can be appreciated. He also told me he knew who broke the window - the man had been arrested trying to break another one down the street and was in jail.

I had to pull out the lemonade maker - again!

The landlord and a friend boarded up the widow. It just so happened that the next artist was a painter friend from Los Angeles. So Jerry Wellmon painted the boards as a mural and there we have it – another show on the window during October. We took them down for Sandra Binion’s performance of body self painting – if you can imagine it – she painted herself!

Last shows were in November: a Traveling Suitcase show and Fotoaktion, a 12 hour event.
It was a sad day leaving The Storefront but by the time I was to pack up and moved it’d been a productive year. It all ended with the writing of The Storefront book and getting it printed.

A few copies remain of the book The Storefront – A Living Art Project. It includes stories and a diary of activities with lots and lots of photos. Check my Web site’s Inventory Reduction Sale for the current price and list. As numbers dwindle the price rises.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Inter DADA 84 Has Moved

Inter DADA 84 Has Moved

Due to anticipated blog size, it now has its own blog at:

The Storefront Part 1 - How I ended up doing the Storefront project

I'd just arrived from my second European World Tour in the fall of '82. A friend of mine had promised to have a room for me to stay in upon my return. He didn't. Before I'd left for my six month trip everything I'd owned was put into storage and now I had to basically start over in a city that is known for its high rents. The storefront was offered to me as a temporary place to stay for a few months until I got on my feet. Only problem, it was in a transitioning neighborhood and I wasn't sure I could handle it.

With a little money I'd made working freelance as an assistant to a big name professional advertising photographer in Manhattan - on a Gilby's Gin ad campaign - I had very few options at the time. I'd learned from my past European trip to stop in NYC to pick up some quick cash at some odd job or so using my art skills, and to begin my transition back into the US culture. I always preferred the European way of life; the lingering meals, social time and an emphasis on the quality of life instead of the manic pace we all seem to live in here in the states. Not to mention the highly sophisticated ability the Europeans have to understand conceptual art.

So here I was in SF trying to get it together while feeling exhausted. I didn't have the energy then to do anything. Not yet anyway so I moved some of my stuff out of storage and camped out in the storefront with my cat Sasha.

Camping out is not an exaggeration. There was a two burner hotplate, a sink, half size refridge, a wet bathroom, meaning the shower was in the same area as the toilet with a drain for the shower water in the floor. I sprayed the windows with a frosted coat of paint to allow both light and privacy, removing the blackout paper a previous tenant had installed. And an old bamboo folding screen I had added to the feeling of home and helped with dividing the space. There was a roomy basement a painter who'd previously occupied the space had squared off with clear plastic for a sleeping area. I later built a loft into an alcove near the kitchen area for this purpose.

To say I was depressed is putting it mildly. It was one of the worst times of my life. I was so weak some days I could not get out of bed. Eventually I made it to the doctor's office to see what was wrong and he declared I had a large case of exhaustion. There was nothing he could do. While visiting one friend in Amsterdam I'd been attacked and all of the stress and emotions I'd had to push past came crashing in now that I had time to pause. It had manifested into exhaustion.

Trying to plan what my next move would be came slowly at first. One thing I liked about the space was a nice platform in a window backed by a white wall. Ten feet of platform ending in a bay window set to one side of the storefront. Perfect for installations and exhibitions on the wall. Heck you could even stand or sit in the window. So I began to envision my first show and what I could do. After all this transitioning neighborhood was a burgeoning art area called SOMA - South of Market Area.

To be continued...