This time of year brings many surprises in the mail, and none more intriguing than Andy Curlowe’s Blurb book. The Mail Project is the end result of months of postcards exchanged between Andy in Ohio and fellow artists in Washington, Massachusetts and New York. As correspondents became creative co-conspirators, mysterious themes and common techniques emerged: personal ads and matchbook covers, stencils and pinpricks. Read side by side, this correspondence becomes a strange, elusive story that makes The Mail Project our Book of the Week.
Andy explains that the United States Postal Service played its own part in the story of each postcard: Though many were delivered despite their very non-standard postcard appearance, inevitably some arrived late or torn. This postal drama may remind you of a real-life Griffin & Sabine, but here the story is told in images alone, and viewers get to sort out the tantalizing details for themselves. Is that couple wearing lampshades on their heads to be festive, or are they fugitives from justice in disguise? Could that scrap of paper be a Bingo card, or a bus ticket?
Andy’s book is inspired by the pioneering mail art of Ray Johnston, the Pop collage artist and subject of a really fascinating documentary called How to Draw a Bunny – definitely worth the holiday rental when you’ve had enough of football and Frosty the Snowman. As the movie says, Johnston was probably “the most famous artist no one has ever heard of”: While his 1960s contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein became famous, he became more reclusive. But he exchanged postcards with a long list of pen-pal collaborators, including Christo, Chuck Close, and Billy Name, who received Johnston’s “Chop Art” collaged postcards with instructions to please add to the work and return it, or forward to the next recipient. His mail art became legendary among artists in particular – and if you take a look at Johnston’s perforated, collaged, mostly black and white mail art, you’ll see that the artworks in Andy’s book are a fitting tribute.
Thanks for The Mail Project, Andy – keep those cards, letters, and books coming.