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.

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