With a quiet explosion from the 1950s, mail art has its pioneering roots in Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondance School, but also in manifestations such as Maciunas’ Fluxus. As the name delivers, it is a movement in which the art fits into an envelope or package that can be transported by mail. The possibilities are many and are not limited to letters or postcards. In Brazil, the movement began to take shape in the 60s.
Also known as postal art – a term that has fallen into disuse for reducing it to just one of the things used, the postcard – the movement consists of an exchange of information, networking and, at that time, a new medium for art. It can not be fooled by the fact that only works made out of paper were sent by mail, but also objects, tapes and videos, some even exchanging pieces of cloth from their own clothes. Artists sought ways to explore all five senses in what was sent to colleagues.
This movement “is no longer an” ism “, but rather the most viable output that existed for art in recent years and the reasons were simple: anti-bourgeois, anticomercial, anti-system, etc.”, wrote the artist Paulo Bruscky in published text in 1976 in the Jornal Letreiro, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte. For him, one of the national exponents of mail art, the movement was essential when it came to breaking down barriers, whether for crossing physical boundaries when interconnecting artists from all corners of the planet or because there are “neither judgments nor awards to the works”.
With a marginal climate, since only those who receive and pass on have contact with the works, the mail art was closed to its agents, creating an intimate fluidity. In Brazil, the movement won a great homage at the São Paulo Biennial in 1981, where it had a space only to exhibit pieces produced in this flow, inviting artists from all over the world. The general curator of that edition was the critic Walter Zanini, who some years ago was dedicated to highlight the mail art in his lines and in his writings. In a 1977 text for the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, he commented that one could not “deny that this activity triggers new communication and structural situations for artistic language”.
Involved with research on marginal groups, such as the Poema-Processo and the Nervo Óptico, which have been exhibited at the Superfície Gallery in recent years, gallery director Gustavo Nóbrega also devoted himself to researching mail art, creating an interest in encouraging its circulation in the market: “The idea is to create a look of collecting for this, in addition to publicizing and showing this production that was very important”.
During the last holiday of the end of the year, Nóbrega made a trip to the Northeast to visit workshops of artists who participated in those activities, he points to the region as the cradle of the movement’s vanguard. In São Paulo, he found very little material, “one, two or three envelopinhos”, there he found works in the mountains, “gigantic archives”. Courier art, which had even greater adherence by artists in Brazil around the 1970s, was not taken as commercial: “It was something even anti-market”, he says. The works were exchanged between the artists themselves, institutions and galleries did not integrate this substantially into their collections. Also, according to Gustavo, the artists themselves did not intend to sell these works.
Superfície Gallery represents Silva Silva, one of the most produced names in the mail art. It was in Falves’ studio that Gustavo found much of the work he brought with him to São Paulo. A priori, he intended to make an exhibition only with works of the movement, but thought it would be too much information. Some of the works that have gone through the research of Nóbrega will be in the next exhibition of the gallery, a panorama of the conceptual art of the 70’s, which will open at April 2nd. The exhibition will have a postal art by Avelino de Araújo, Paulo Bruscky, Edgar Antonio Vigo, Silva Silva and the Australian Pat Larter, among others. Materials of the collective Karimbada besides works of the exhibition Olho Mágico (1978) also will be included.