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Corresponding Worlds - Artists' Stamps catalog



Corresponding Worlds - Artists' Stamps
Allen Memorial Art Museum
Oberlin, Ohio
January 11 - March 1, 1987
From the Curator's Statement

Two objectives guided the selection of work for this exhibition: First, I wanted to put together an exhibition that would reflect the high level of aesthetic quality that can be found in this genre. Second, I wished to underscore the many fascinating connections and parallels between the world of artists’ stamps and the world of philately. Because of these goals, I chose to curate an exhibition in the traditional manner as opposed to organizing an open mail-art exhibition. I realize that this is a controversial approach to the mail-art network that prides itself on its origins as an alternative to the labyrinth of the highly politicized “art world” of galleries, museums and collectors. Personally, I feel that the integration of the traditional art world structure and the mail-art network is inevitable. My response is that the mail-artist should play the pivotal role in this integration.

Artists’ stamps are one of the most ubiquitous aspects of the mail-art phenomenon. It has been a most daunting task to attempt a selection of work for an exhibition of this nature, as there are literally thousands of artists’ stamps being produced all over the world. This selection was made after going through the work of many hundreds of artists. In order to illustrate best the quality of  work that has been done, ten artists were selected who have concentrated on the stamp as a major focus of their art work. By showing their work in greater depth than is usual in the mail-art context, I felt that I could better illustrate my point that this is an area of greater interest and profundity than might be suggested by an occasional stamp or two by the artist whose true interest lies elsewhere. This concentration of work has been placed in greater perspective by the inclusion of stamp works by forty additional artists. The exhibition consists of over 200 works by artists from sixteen different countries. Beyond the exercise of my own critical sensibilities as an artist, I have attempted a selection of stylistic breadth and as broad a geographical representation as possible. I have also had to observe the practical restrictions of space and budget in putting together this exhibition. Ultimately, after eleven years as a devoted stamp collector, this has been a labor of love.

Obviously an exhibition of this scope and complexity cannot have been done by one individual alone. Although I bear the total responsibility for the selection of work for this exhibition, I am indebted to many people for their generous support and help. This endeavor would have been impossible without the invaluable support and assistance—not to mention the many hours of hard work—of Gail Freed. For working so many months on a daily basis with someone who is not an easy person to work with, she deserves the Croix de Guerre. A similar award is also due to Deborah Koncan of the Allen Memorial Art Museum staff who shepherded many difficult stages of this project. I owe Tristan Francis a special note of thanks for so succinctly phrasing the tone of this exhibition with the title of “Corresponding Worlds.” Jack Schlechter also deserves special mention for his many long hours spent in preparing the material for exhibition. I also wish to thank the Allen Memorial Art Museum and its staff for the opportunity to do this exhibition and for their countless hours of assistance. Finally, without the dedication and generosity of all the artists represented there would, of course, have been no show. The involvement, cooperation and support of my fellow mail-art enthusiasts has been a constant source of stimulation and encouragement. This exhibition is dedicated in gratitude to their efforts.

Harley, Curator
December 1, 1986


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