Greetings from Daddaland: The Fake Picabia Brothers Search Sources in the Scrap Heap of the Twentieth Century Avant-Garde
By John Held, Jr.
Bill Gaglione and John Held, Jr. began corresponding in the late seventies, drawn together by interests in Mail Art, and in particular, the rubber stamps used to decorate their envelopes and enclosures. Gaglione had curated one of the first rubber stamp art exhibitions, Neo-Merz, at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970. Held had the first one-person exhibition at Stempelplaats Gallery in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1976, a noted center for international alternative arts, including rubber stamp art. Two years later, Gaglione and then wife Anna Banana performed there. Twenty years hence, Held and Gaglione were replicating the Stempelplaats experience in San Francisco at The Stamp Art Gallery.
In the initial stages of their correspondence, the two shared an admiration for Jean Brown, a collector of Dada and Fluxus located in a historic Shaker Seed House in Tyringham, Massachusetts. Jean and her husband Leonard had assembled a large collection of Dada ephemera (letters, periodicals, posters, books, etc.) in the fifties. After his death, Jean continued to collect, was steered to the avant-garde activities of Fluxus, and became a major patron of the movement, including having impresario George Maciunas design her archive on the second story of the Seed House. After her death in 1994, the collection went to the Getty Research Library in Los Angeles.
Held, then residing in Upstate New York, became a frequent visitor of Brown’s, spending overnight visits with both her and Maciunas, who was then living in nearby Great Barrington. Gaglione was also inspired by Jean Brown, and Jean reciprocated this admiration by having Gaglione design stationary and postcards for her. Their mutual admiration for Jean Brown not only cemented their mutual interests in Mail Art and Fluxus, but acknowledged their keen interest in tracing the histories of these movements as they related to their primary field of Mail Art.
Slowly they realized that the key to unlocking these histories was the simple marking device they were using to decorate their stationary. For when the history of rubber stamp art was traced, it lead from the pre-revolutionary Russian Futurists and Zaum Poets to the Stamp Drawings of Merz artist Kurt Schwitters, it’s use by Duchamp, Dada, Nouveau Realism and Fluxus, flowering in the Mail Art movement from the sixties to the present.
In my book, Rubber Stamp Art (AAA Edizione, Bertiolo, Italy, 1999), I wrote that, “In many ways, rubber stamp art represented the fruition of the 20th century avant-gardist. Dada artist Marcel Duchamp implied that anything could be art, and Fluxus participant Joseph Beuys suggested that anyone could become an artist. Rubber stamp art enables anyone to instantly create a credible pictorial presentation or conceptually challenging work from a simple marking device.”
As many involved in Mail Art, Gaglione and Held began to collaborate, first in each others projects, later in joint performances in which they billed themselves The Fake Picabia Brothers, and eventually in the administration of a gallery devoted to examining radical Twentieth Century artists, who had influenced their own direction.
For a brief period of two years, 1995 to 1997, their twenty-year history culminated in a sustained exploration of shared interests. Gaglione had established a rubber stamp company in San Francisco, Stamp Francisco, which included manufacturing, retail, gallery and publishing components. Begun in the early eighties, by the mid-nineties, when Held moved from Dallas to San Francisco to work with him, Gaglione’s Stamp Francisco had grown to employ some forty persons. Finally, they were able to put into practice what they had observed firsthand at Stempelplaats in the late seventies.
Held began 1995 as an Art Librarian in Dallas. Early in the year, he went to Havana, Cuba, to curate an exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts. Mid-year, he joined up with Gaglione in Paris, France, for a Fake Picabia Brothers performance at the Musée de la Poste at the opening of a major rubber stamp art exhibition. In October 1995, Held moved from Dallas to San Francisco to begin work with Gaglione at The Stamp Art Gallery.
Over the next two years, Gaglione and Held mounted over fifty exhibitions of Mail Art, rubber stamp art and artist postage stamps, spotlighting both contemporary and historic figures of the twentieth century avant-garde, who had helped determine the duo’s course. In so doing, they not only deepened their own artistic understanding, but helped shed light on little known yet deserving scouts of the previous century’s art.
Attending New York’s School of Visual Arts in the mid-sixties, William Gaglione was introduced to the work of Ray Johnson through his instructors, painters Joseph Raffael (AKA Joseph Raffaelle) and Alan D’Archangelo. He was especially impressed by a 1967 viewing of Johnson’s work in a group show called Process Art at Finch College in New York City.
Young Gaglione began writing Johnson and in return began receiving return correspondence from the acknowledged master of Mail Art. On May 25,1972, Johnson wrote,” Dear Daddaland Daddaland, I made a big Mailing Event for you and then A. A. Bronson of General Idea telephoned and I am meeting him at midnight at Max’s and am giving most of the Mailing spit to him so better luck next time and there will be a next time.” Johnson followed this up by announcing the “New York Correspondence School Spit for Dadaland,” in multiple mailings.
Later in 1967, Gaglione moved to San Francisco were he maintained correspondence with members of Johnson’s New York Correspondance School of Art, including John Evans, E. M. Plunkett and Richard Craven. At the beginning of the following decade, Gaglione was spearheading the formation of the Bay Area Dada circle with cousin Tim Mancusi, Arthur Craven (AKA Charles Chickadel), and the notorious Monte Cazazza (who later coined the term Industrial Music).
During this formative period, Gaglione worked at an art supply store across the street from Patrick’s and Company, one of the largest rubber stamp stores in the country, and one of the few to sell pictorial stamps. Their stamps, and those custom-made, began to figure prominently in his Mail Art.
Meanwhile Gaglione’s list of correspondents was growing. Not only was he in touch with Johnson and the NYCS, but with the rising wave of Canadian alternative art communities including General Idea (Toronto) and Western Front (Vancouver). His Fluxus contacts also expanded. Ken Friedman was in San Diego forming Fluxus West, and Jeff Berner, a Berkeley professor, was distributing Flux-Kits in Haight-Ashbury head shops at the behest of Maciunas. As a result of friendships with the both of them, Gaglione was drawn into the sphere of such European avant-gardists as Joseph Beuys, Robert Filliou, Ben Vautier, Milan Knizak and Daniel Spoerri.
The NYCS Weekly Breeder, started by Ken Friedman in 1971, was one of the first publications to disseminate information on Mail Art. Friedman passed the editorship to Stu Horn (AKA The Northwest Mounted Valise), who turned it over to the Bay Area Dada Group, edited by Gaglione and Tim Mancusi, who published it from May 1972 to Autumn 1974.
“It was during this period that the Weekly Breeder served as a model for the numerous other ‘dadazines’ that soon blossomed around the country,” Mancusi wrote in his 1992 twentieth anniversary issue, “purveying a style of images as uniquely Bay Area as FILE was Canadian. Although usually consisting of collaged images, the Weekly Breeder also contained drawings, photography and occasionally poetry.” It was during this period that Gaglione indulged in numerous pseudonyms, including the oft-used Daddaland.
Prior to his initial meeting with future wife Anna Banana, Gaglione was engaged in publishing the Weekly Breeder, while she was editing the Banana Rag in Vancouver. After Banana relocated to San Francisco in 1974, they began alternately editing VILE magazine. This period marks a crucial turning point in the history of Mail Art, when the first generation of Mail Artists began to make way for a second wave drawn to the medium as a result of widespread exposure in Rolling Stone, FILE and David Zack’s Art in America January 1973 cover story, “An Authentik and Historikal Discourse on the Phenomenon of Mail Art.”
Gaglione and Banana typified this new breed of Mail Artist in the early seventies. They were not involved in traditional art mediums, but had a healthy interest in conceptual ideas generated by art, especially the Dada and Futurist movements. These ideas manifested themselves in performance, zine publishing and cross-cultural exchange. Coming of age when disenfranchised youth began looking for social, political and cultural alternatives, Mail Art became not a collateral art activity, but a primary means of expression.
Long before Mail Art “tourism” became a twinkle in the eye of 1980s and 1990s networkers (with their penchant for meeting and congressing with long distance correspondents), Gaglione and Banana were involved in performance activities linking far-flung Mail Art correspondents in a series of personal contacts. They had participated in the Hollywood Deccadance, which brought together a large number of first- and second-generation West Coast and Canadian Mail Artists on February 2, 1974. They had also participated in a number of performance events around the Bay Area, transforming their local Mail Art contacts into friends and collaborators.
It was their five-month performance tour of America, Canada and Europe in 1978 that heralded a new era of interpersonal relationships between correspondents. Locating their Mail Art friends on a map of Europe, Gaglione and Banana determined a route that would gain access to as many of them as possible. Twenty-eight stops were made in England, Belgium, Holland, West and East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and France.
It was during the end of this trip that Gaglione and Banana met Ulises Carrion, the driving force behind Stempelplaats Gallery. A Mexican artist, who had relocated to The Netherlands, Carrion had convinced a noted Dutch rubber stamp manufacturer to open a gallery to exhibit and publish rubber stamp works, serving as an information clearinghouse for practitioners around the world.
Vital as their artistic collaboration was, Gaglione and Banana were unable to sustain their personal relationship. The couple divorced in 1981, with Gaglione remaining in San Francisco and Banana returning to Vancouver. Gaglione, energized by his exposure to Stempelplaats, purchased a used rubber stamp vulcanizer, the essential tool in rubber stamp production, at a garage sale for $200.
With the help of current wife Darlene Domel, they started Abracadada and Stamp Francisco stamp companies. They published their first catalog of 60 pages in 1982, containing over 600 images in 40 categories. In so doing, they became pioneers in the emerging explosion of small “mom and pop” companies selling visual rubber stamps that sprouted up throughout the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.
Gaglione was also promoting rubber stamps as an art form by organizing exhibitions and publishing. In 1980, he edited VILE #7 (Stampart), a hand-assembled work of 185 artists. The introductory text contained an exhaustive listing of rubber stamp art publications, shows and events, tracing the history of the medium’s use by artists from 1970. In 1981, along with Joel Rossman, Tim Mancusi and Nancy Frank, he curated the exhibition Rubber Stamps as Process Art at La Mamelle Inc. in San Francisco.
After a decade of working out of his basement, Gaglione and Stamp Francisco relocated in 1990 to San Francisco’s then pre-gentrified South of Market district. Gaglione expanded Stamp Francisco in 1992 by inaugurating the Rubber Stamp Museum, allowing him to display his collection of antique rubber stamps.
Gaglione’s Stamp Art Gallery was modeled on Stempelplaats Gallery, which flourished in Amsterdam, Holland, from 1976 to 1981, witnessed first-hand on his 1978 tour. In addition to showing the work of international rubber stamp artists, Stempelplaats also sold the rubber stamp line of Posthumus, the royal stamp and seal makers of Holland, included a museum of historical rubber stamps and published a periodical of rubber stamp art called Rubber.
In 1991, Gaglione began exhibiting rubber stamp art at the Stamp Art Gallery, featuring the work of six women artists over the course of the year. In addition, a number of Mail Art exhibitions were displayed, including the International Femail Art Show, in February 1993. In 1994, he curated exhibitions for a number of international Mail Artists, including Ruggero Maggi (Italy) and Serge Segay (Russia), as well as San Francisco Mail Artists Jenny Soup and Mike Dyar.
In addition to showing rubber stamps, Gaglione also showed artists with an interest in artistamps (artist postage stamps). In 1992, E. F. Higgins III was shown, along with other New York artists John Evans, Mark Bloch, Carlo Pittore and John P. Jacobs. Crackerjack Kid (AKA Chuck Welch) presented his Networker Congress Stamps in March 1992. In December 1994, the artistamps of Italian Mail Artist Marcello Diotellevi were exhibited.
As a public venue established for the sustained display of rubber stamps, artist postage stamps and Mail Art, the Gallery began attracting a number of traveling artists, including Clemente Padin from Montevideo, Uruguay, one of South America’s most notable visual poets; Peter Küstermann and Henning Mittendorf from Germany; and Shozo Shimamoto and Ryosuke Cohen from Japan. Shimamoto was one of the founders of Gutai, a Japanese post-war avant-garde movement, increasingly acknowledged as an important influence on international contemporary art.
In 1992, John Held, Jr., a Mail Artist from Dallas, created a rubber stamp mural in the gallery during a performance titled Networking Fresco. Held made a repeat appearance in 1995 at the Stamp Art Gallery in the exhibition, Netland Impressions. Held had organized many Mail Art exhibitions and events, including the 1986 artistamp exhibition Mail Art/Postage Stamps: From the Collection of Jon Held, Jr. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which featured works from 119 artists in his collection.
In 1995, Held curated Faux Post: Artists’ Postage Stamps from the International Mail Art Network, which opened at the Bush Barn Art Center, Salem, Oregon, in June 1995, and subsequently traveled to nine additional venues in Montana, Iowa, Tennessee and Virginia. The exhibition included early works by Robert Watts and Donald Evans, helping set the contemporary work of over fifty artists within a historical context.
Since his exhibition Stampworks at Stempelplaats Gallery in 1977, in which he combined rubber stamps with pen and ink, Held had created artist books, murals and performances with rubber stamps. In 1979, he showed his rubber stamp works to Clement Greenberg, who proclaimed his use of rubber stamps, “a gimmick.” Despite the disparagement directed to him by the noted art critic, Held persisted, convinced the humble marking device could hold it’s own with any other creative medium.
In addition to being an active participant in Mail Art, Held became one of its leading historians. In 1986, he published, International Artistic Cooperation: Mail Art Shows, 1970-1985, through the auspices of the Dallas Public Library. This was followed by another library project, A World Bibliography of Mail Art, listing magazine and newspaper articles, catalog essays and books on the subject. The listing was then annotated and appeared as the book, Mail Art: an Annotated Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, London and New York, 1991), which remains the leading bibliographic source to the field.
In addition to his bibliographic abilities, Held also became one of the great collectors of Mail Art. In 1981, he and then wife Paula Barber, opened Modern Realism Gallery, hosting a number of international artists (Henning Mittendorf, Jürgen Olbrich, Jo Klaffki, buZ blurr, Anna Banana, Ryosuke Cohen, Shozo Shimamoto,et al.). Held’s collection, moved from Dallas to San Francisco, augmented Gaglione’s substantial collection, providing a strong foundation for future exhibitions once Held relocated.
In October 1995, Held moved from Dallas to San Francisco to take a position as curator of the Stamp Art Gallery. Gaglione and Held immediately prepared their first collaborative exhibition, International Artistamps, which opened in December 1995 and continued throughout the month. With this inaugural exhibition, the Stamp Art Gallery had taken a step toward the goal of being the first venue in the world to feature artist postage stamps on a regular basis. Work from over 450 artists represented in Gaglione’s Daddaland Collection and Held’s Modern Realism Archive were shown both framed and in notebooks. It was one of the largest displays of artistamps ever presented in a public venue.
To commemorate the inaugural exhibition of the Stamp Art Gallery’s artistamp program (dedicated to the late Canadian artist Michael Bidner), a special box set was issued. It contained a rubber stamp reproducing English artist Robin Crozier’s Post Painting (a drawn artistamp created for Guy Schraenen’s 1981 anthology stamp sheet published as a supplement to issue number eight of his magazine Libellus), a perforated sheet of the Post Painting stamps, a 16-page booklet with a text by John Held, Jr. and the names of 450 artists from 40 countries participating in the opening show.
Gaglione and Held began running a monthly three-track exhibition program focusing on Mail Art, rubber stamp art and artistamps.
An ambitious artistamp exhibition program was developed for 1996, with a different artist shown each month of the year.
January: Yves Klein/The Blue Stamp
February: Robert Watts
March: Donald Evans
April: Harley/Terra Candella
May: E. F. Higgins III
June: Patricia Tavenner
July: C. T. Chew
August: Jeffrey Dixon
September: Ed Varney
October: James Warren Felter
The January 1996 exhibition of Yves Klein’s Blue Stamp featured both a single framed stamp from Held’s collection (obtained from Swedish Mail Artist and art publisher Leif Eriksson, who had curated the first Swedish exhibition of artistamps, The Yellow Error, in Bjärred, Sweden, in 1983), and a postcard from Gaglione’s collection bearing a cancelled Blue Stamp from the 1957 invitation for joint exhibitions at Iris Clert (May 10) and Colette Allendy (May 14) galleries. This marked the first occasion Klein’s Blue Stamp had been exhibited in conjunction with an artistamp exhibition.
This inaugural viewing of the Blue Stamp was surrounded by numerous events and publications over the course of January 1996, including a performance, lecture, catalog and limited edition rubber stamp box set. The exhibition coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Ray Johnson, who had drowned the previous year, and events were planned in his honor. Rubber stamp exhibitions and classes continued, as they had for the past five years. A press release listing events for the month indicates the level of activity generated by Gaglione and Held’s collaboration, which continued unabated throughout the year:
Saturday, January 6, 1996. Exhibition Opening, “Yves Klein: The Blue Stamp.” One of the first fine artists to use the postage stamp medium, French New Realist painter and conceptualist Yves Klein is featured in the first of a series of exhibitions highlighting pioneers of the medium.
Saturday, January 6, 1996. Exhibition Opening, “Tim Mancusi/Graffiti Grafix.” A rubber stamp correspondence in the tradition of Griffin and Sabine.
Saturday, January 13, 1996. Exhibition Opening, “Bunny Dead: A Tribute to Ray Johnson (1927-1995).” A year-long memorial exhibition honoring the Father of Mail Art, who died January 13, 1995. Work from the international mail art community will be shown as received throughout the year.
Saturday, January 13, 1996 (2:00 pm). Lecture, “Bunny Dead: A Ray Johnson Memorial.” Marks the first anniversary of the death of the Father of Mail Art, Ray Johnson, with a lecture by John Held, Jr., and the premiere of a videotaped 1978 interview with Johnson conducted by Held.
Saturday, January 20, 1996 (12:00-2:00 pm). Demonstration, “Just the Basics.” Basic rubber stamping for the beginner only, taught by Vicki Miguel. $12 fee required.
Saturday, January 27, 1996 (2:00 pm). Performance, “Monochrome for Yves Klein,” by Ben Vautier. Performed by Picasso Gaglione and John Held, Jr. as part of the Gallery’s “Fluxfest ‘96.”
To accompany the Klein exhibition, the catalog, Yves Klein: The Blue Stamp, was published with an extended history on the production of the stamp by John Held, Jr. A rubber stamp box set was produced by Gaglione and Held, reproducing the postmark used to cancel the 1957 posting by Klein and Iris Clert. The rubber stamp of the May 5, 1957, postmark is set in a gold box with text in pink and a die-cut blue support for the rubber stamp: colors associated with the artist.
The February 1996 artistamp exhibition at Stamp Art Gallery featured the work of Fluxus artist Robert Watts. The show, Robert Watts: Artistamps, 1961-1986, displayed all his artist postage stamp sheets as well as a preparatory mechanical for Fluxpost 17/17.
The next artistamp exhibition was devoted to Donald Evans, and featured several souvenir sheets from exhibitions in the Netherlands, which were cancelled by rubber stamps of his own design. Also available for viewing was a copy of Evans’ Catalogue of the World. The 330-page work, written in English, Dutch and French, listed all his stamp issues in the manner of a standard postage stamp catalog. Each issue of the photocopied catalog included one hand-colored stamp, making it a unique work.
For the remainder of 1996, the Stamp Art Gallery featured monthly exhibitions by contemporary artistamp artists Harley, E. F. Higgins III, Patricia Tavenner, Carl Chew, Jeffrey Dixon, Ed Varney, James Warren Felter, Dogfish and Dominique Bugpost. Each of the artists was asked to design a stamp sheet especially for his or her exhibition, as well as a personalized cancellation mark, which was produced for each artist by Stamp Francisco. Three books were published in connection with this program, The Rubber Stamps of Ed Varney, The Rubber Stamps of Carl Chew and The Rubber Stamps of Jas. Felter.
Portfolios were created for the exhibiting artists at the 1996 Artistamp Exhibition Program at The Stamp Art Gallery. Each portfolio was enclosed in a black folder with an artist postage stamp sheet, created for the occasion, affixed to the front cover and embossed with a cancellation mark designed by the artist. The portfolios contained biographical information, occasional essays on the artists’ work and the stamp sheet designed for the Stamp Art Gallery exhibition. The stamp sheets and cancellation stamps for the deceased artists were designed by Picasso Gaglione and John Held, Jr. Nine of the participating artists produced special cancellation stamps in conjunction with their Stamp Art Gallery exhibitions. These were gathered with cancellation marks produced in homage to the three deceased artists (Klein, Watts and Evans) and boxed in a set of twelve.
A special exhibition featuring the photo stamps of May Wilson, an early correspondent of Ray Johnson, was also mounted at the Stamp Art Gallery in 1996. For this exhibition, the Gallery had the assistance of Wilson’s son, noted Ray Johnson scholar, William S. Wilson, who contributed an essay to the catalog.
In October 1996, Dutch artist Ruud Janssen, one of the leading historians of in the fields of Mail Art and rubber stamps, Director of The TAM (Traveling Art Mail) Rubberstamp Archive, came to lecture at The Stamp Art Gallery in support of his exhibition. The show was organized by Janssen, who had prepared special forms for the occasion asking contributors to send impressions of their rubber stamps directly to the Gallery. Over 80 artists from 20 countries responded.
The following year, Oakland artistamp artist Patricia Tavenner was invited to guest curate The First International Female Artistamp Exhibition, which was shown at the Stamp Art Gallery from January 4 through February 22. Over 100 women artists were shown in the exhibition, drawn from the collections of Tavenner, Gaglione and Held. In a catalog complementing the exhibition, over 35 women from the United States, Canada, England, Italy, Denmark and Croatia provided artist statements, forming the most detailed study of female participation in the artistamp medium ever assembled.
Coinciding with The First International Female Artistamp Exhibition, the Stamp Art Gallery organized the Pacific Rim Artistamp Congress 1997 on February 22nd and 23rd at the San Mateo Expo Center, San Mateo, California, some 20 miles south of San Francisco. This was held in conjunction with The California Art and Rubber Stamp Festival, produced by Heirloom Productions, which featured 50 rubber stamp companies exhibiting their various products.
Gaglione and Held had attended Alternative Artfest in Seattle, Washington, on March 2, 1996, which was organized by Teesha Moore. Joining the rubber stampers, artist book producers, and other art and craft communities was a strong artistamp contingent composed of Anna Banana, Bugpost, Joycelyn Cazier, Carl Chew, Jeffrey Dixon, James Warren Felter, Picasso Gaglione, John Held, Jr., Marvin Johnson, Sheba, Patricia Tavenner and Ed Varney.
Seeking to replicate a similar experience closer to home, the Pacific Rim Artistamp Congress, organized by Gaglione and Held, attracted one of the largest gatherings of artistamp artists ever assembled. Those attending included Anna Banana (Vancouver), Bugpost (Seattle), buZ blurr (Gurdon, Arkansas), Marilyn Califf (Memphis), Joel Cohen (New York), Dogfish (Seattle), Eleanor Kent (San Francisco) James Warren Felter (Vancouver), Picasso Gaglione (San Francisco), Harley (Guerneville, California), John Held, Jr. (San Francisco), Thomas Kerr (New York), Tim Mancusi (Rohnert Park, California), Maggie Murphy (San Francisco), Diana Mars (San Francisco), Steve Smith (Gulfport, Florida), Patricia Tavenner (Oakland) and Ed Varney (Vancouver).
Writing of her experiences in attending the Artistamp Congress, newcomer Marilyn Califf expressed her appreciation for the event:
That was a really exciting event. Getting to meet the originators of the artistamp culture was a watershed educational experience for me. They were real flesh and blood people, not just names I had read in a magazine. I was amazed that they accepted me as one of them just as if I had been making artistamps for 25 years like they had. I was invited to set out my stamps on a table and show them to the public. I nearly fainted when someone bought a sheet of my “Tumbling Man”! It was a wonderful weekend for me. I spent time with each artist, looked at everyone’s work, and talked to them about their processes. It really boosted my morale when many of them traded sheets of their artistamps for mine.
Some of the artists, including Dogfish and Harley, designed special stamp sheets and cancellation marks for the event. Steve Smith designed a stamp sheet after the event, pairing the faces of those who had participated. Joel Cohen and Thomas Kerr, of Ragged Edge Press, collaborated in producing rubber stamp portraits of the attending artists. At a dinner following the Pacific Rim Artistamp Congress, the artists welcomed Mail Art pioneer Dana Atchley, who had contributed to Felter’s 1974 Artists’ Stamps and Stamp Images exhibition, lending an air of historic continuity to the event.
Artistamp exhibitions at the Stamp Art Gallery were less numerous in 1997 than during the previous year. This was due in large part to planning for the Pacific Rim Artistamp Congress and for a major exhibition and catalog prepared on the rubber stamp works of Arman, a childhood friend of Yves Klein, assembled with the artist’s assistance and exhibited from March to April. Gaglione and Held also curated the exhibition, My Fifty Favorite Mail Art Catalogs, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library.
buZ blurr (AKA Russell Butler) was the major solo artistamp exhibition of the year, and a catalog was produced documenting his Caustic Jelly Post series of Mail Art personalities. Frequent visits to The Stamp Art Gallery by blurr over the years from his native Arkansas, accompanied by his ever present camera, captured the personalities and events that made the Stamp Art Gallery a focal point for alternative art on the West Coast.
The catalog for blurr and a limited edition rubber stamp box set of his Caustic Jelly Post portraits of Gaglione and Held, were among the last of the many catalogs and multiples Gaglione and Held produced in their two year collaboration at the Stamp Art Gallery. Through Stamp Art Editions, the publishing arm of the Gallery, they had documented the Mail Art, rubber stamp and artistamp fields in unprecedented detail
In December 1997, the Stamp Art Gallery closed due to financial problems associated with its parent company, Stamp Francisco. Gaglione and his wife began a new rubber stamp company, Stampland. Held and Gaglione collaborated on an exhibition of the many publications produced by members of the Bay Area Dadaists, 1970-1984. Bay Area Dada: Before Punk and Zines was exhibited first at the San Francisco Main Library in September 1998 and from January 15 through March 6, 1999, at Printed Matter, New York, where it was reviewed in The New York Times.
Gaglione relocated to Chicago in June 2000, where he and Darlene Domal established a new home for Stampland, their current rubber stamp company. As a last collaborative project before departure, Gaglione and Held began the publication of Artistampzine, an artistamp assembling publication:
Call Artistampzine Vol. 1, No. 1, a going away present. Call it a beginning. With Gaglione leaving San Francisco, a new era begins, based on thirty years of tradition. Gaglione began editing Dadazine in 1972. In 1978, he put out Stampzine. Now Artistampzine appears, an assembling zine issued in portfolio format. Each issue will contain news and discussion on artistamps, as well as presenting original stampsheets by contributors.
This issue features the work of Bay Area Dada. Dadaland (AKA Bill Gaglione) and Tim Mancusi began editing The New York Correspondance School Weekly Breeder in 1972. Charles (Carlo Giovanni Cicatelli) Chickadel edited The West Bay Dadaists and Quoz? from 1973 to 1976. Indian Ralph, the spiritual leader of the movement, issued his first Da-Jest in 1973. Darling Darlene is Gaglione’s spiritual leader. Seth Mason is a former shit worker at Stamp Francisco. John Held, Jr. is a five-year veteran of the Bay Area Dada scene, and the curator of Bay Area Dada: Before Punk and Zines.
Gaglione and Held continued to collaborate on projects after Stamp Francisco and the Stamp Art Gallery closed, but the heyday of their collaboration, the magic years of 1995-1997 when they were in daily contact with the full resources of a major rubber stamp company behind them was over.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired a complete collection of over sixty Stamp Art Gallery exhibition catalogs in 2008. Stamp Art Gallery rubber stamp box sets have been shown at the Centers for the Book in San Francisco, Minneapolis and New York. The present Stendhal Gallery exhibition, “Greetings from Daddaland: Fluxus, Mail Art and Rubber Stamps,” is one more indication that the trail Gaglione and Held set out to trace in the seventies has yet to conclude.
Among the catalogs published by The Stamp Art Gallery from 1995 to 1997:
ARMAN. 1997. 162 pages.
Arman was the first post WWII artist to use rubber stamps on a systematic basis. His friendship with Yves Klein and participation in the Paris based Nouveau Realist avant-garde group, placed him in the forefront of contemporary vanguard art. Arman’s later work, especially his Accumulations, collected objects placed within shadow boxes, have been well documented. His rubber stamp work is usually considered a prelude to these later work. In his essay, “The Treatment of Vision: Arman’s Cachets,” John Held, Jr. makes the case that the earlier rubber stamp works have informed all phases of his later career. With assistance from the artist, The Stamp Art Gallery has assembled the most complete history of Arman’s rubber stamp activity, including an in-depth investigation of the influence Kurt Schwitters and Dutch artist H. R. Werkman had on his work. Profusely illustrated, the catalog also includes original Arman rubber stamp designs made expressly for the occasion of the exhibition.
GUY BLEUS. 1996. 92 pages.
The most complete collection of texts by the Belgian art administrator and chief theoretician of contemporary mail art. His selected writings from 1979-1995 are divided into four categories: Introducing Mail-Art, Administration, Mail-Art Genres and Networkers, Networking and Netland. The twenty-three texts range over a wide area of concerns, from Indirect Correspondence to In Quest of Netland. Also included are biographical notes, a bibliography, and an introduction, Guy Bleus: Global Administrator, by John Held, Jr. Illustrated throughout.
buZ blurr: CAUSTIC JELLY POST. 1997. 68 pages.
Since 1972, Arkansas artist buZ blurr (Russell Butler, Hoo Hoo Archive, Sweeney Todd) has been an active participant in many areas of international networking. A tireless “tourist,” he has met many of his correspondents in the United States, Canada and Europe. During the course of these visits, buZ documents the occasion with a Polaroid camera and then stencils the results, ultimately creating Caustic Jelly Post artistamp sheet portraits. This catalog documents all of the stampsheets created in this manner. An introduction and checklist (1980-1997) is provided by John Held, Jr.
PAULO BRUSCKY. 1996. 52 pages.
Found rubber stamp poetry dominates this work by this Brazilian mail artist, one of the first practitioners of the medium in South American. An essay by John Held, Jr., “From Rubber Stamps to Telepathy,” expands the artists’ concerns to all manner of communication media. The essay also traces Bruscky’s trials as an artist under a repressive political system and the censorship of several of his mail art shows. Stamping with found and accessible materials, such as the soles of shoes, children’s stamps, business marking devices and fingerprints, Bruscky’s abstract patterns reveal a hidden world revealed by common objects.
GUGLIELMO ACHILLE CAVELLINI. 1995. 72 pages.
An illustrated text by John Held, Jr. on the life of Cavellini, from his beginnings as a famous collector of contemporary art (Nouveau Realism, Fluxus, the Austrian body-artists Nitsch, Brus, et al.) to his own career as an artist devoted to self-historification. Following the introduction are the rubber stamp impressions used by Cavellini to commemorate his exhibitions, festivals, publications, etc. A special stamp sheet by Picasso Gaglione commemorating the late Italian artist is also included.
THE RUBBER STAMPS OF C. T. CHEW. 1996. 32 pages.
Best known as a creator of artist postage stamps, Seattle artist C. T. Chew uses a variety of rubber stamps in the margins of his Triangle Post stampsheets. These have been gathered in a small booklet (5 1/2”x 4 1/4”) reflecting his interests in artistamps, visual language, and the postal system as a means of communication transfer.
M. B. CORBETT: THE COMPLETE STAMPWORKS. 1996. 120 pages
Corbett is one of the new breed of networking artists fully aware of the major currents shaping the Eternal Network. Thousands of rubber stamp images commemorate Duchamp, Dada, Futurism, Fluxus, Ray Johnson, and other active Mail Art protagonists, in such categories as Appropriations; Fake Ray Johnsons; New Flesh on Old Bones; Art, Networker, and Mail Art Stamps; Shear Poetry; and Stamp Carvings. Get ready for an exciting history lesson in page after page of contemporary rubber stamp art. John Held, Jr. contributes an introductory essay on Corbetts’ development as an artist, as well as his production methods.
MIKE CRANE: STAMPS IN USE. 1995. 36 pages.
Crane, the co-author of Correspondence Art: Source Book for the Network of International Postal Art Activity, was an active mail artist before penning the comprehensive history of the medium. The exhibition catalog contains many of the rubber stamps Crane used in his Mail Art activities. The show was held at the Stamp Art Gallery August 5-30, 1995. Smaller format (4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″) then our standard catalogs.
MARCELLO DIOTALLEVI: LETTERS FROM KYTHERA, TOO. 1996.
A booklet prepared by the Italian artist in connection with his February 1996 Stamp Art Gallery exhibition of visual poetry. Five of the works are reproduced, accompanied by a brief introduction and biographical notes. Digest size.
THE FAKE PICABIA BROTHERS: ALTERNATIVE ARTQUEST. 1996. 54 pages.
A travel diary detailing the journey of Picasso Gaglione and John Held, Jr. to Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, where they participated in Alternative Artfest, a rubber stamp and artistamp convention in Seattle, and The Zine Crusade in Vancouver. It’s a trip into many facets of the contemporary alternative art scene, where they meet such active participants as Anna Banana, Bugpost, Carl Chew, James Warren Felter, Patricia Tavenner, and Ed Varney. Gaglione and Held also visit Canada’s legendary alternative art space, The Western Front, and the world’s first Artistamp Museum. The narrative by Held is accompanied by annotated photographs by Gaglione; source material on Alternative Artfest, The Zine Crusade, and Western Front; as well as an original Monochrome Artistamp from the Artfest exhibition by Gaglione.
JAS. W. FELTER: COLLECTED ARTISTAMP WRITINGS. 1996. 62 pages.
Canadian artist James Felter curated the first exhibition of artist postage stamps in 1974 and continues to be active in the field, currently editing the International Directory of Artistamp Creators. This catalog contains twelve of his artistamp essays, ranging from his catalog introduction to the initial artistamp show through his forward to the International Directory. An essay by John Held, Jr. introduces the texts.
THE RUBBER STAMPS OF JAS. W. FELTER. 1996. 20 pages.
The rubber stamps of artist postage stamp pioneer James Felter are reproduced in this digest compilation.
LUCE FIERENS. 1997. 66 pages.
Documents the publishing and mail art activity of this Belgian artist, who has continued to work within the Fluxus spirit. John Held, Jr. contributes the essay, “The Postfluxpostbooklets of Luce Fierens,” and all forty covers of the booklets are reproduced. Fierens himself provides a checklist of the publications, which began in 1982. Another listing by the artist details his Fluxus inspired activities.
FIRST INTERNATIONAL FEMALE ARTISTAMP EXHIBITION. 1997. 76 pages.
The catalog for the exhibition, held from January 4 through February 22, features over thirty-five women artists active in the artistamp field. Reproductions of their work are accompanied by statements from artists practicing in the United States, Canada, England, Italy, Denmark and Croatia, forming the most detailed study yet of female participation in the medium. Exhibition curator Patricia Tavenner provides an introduction to the work. An original stampsheet by Darling Darlene in included.
FLUX POST KIT 7. 1997. 56 pages.
On the thirtieth anniversary of its conception (March 8, 1967), The Stamp Art Gallery held an exhibition featuring one of the seminal objects of both Fluxus and mail art. George Maciunas collected postal related Fluxus artifacts (rubber stamps, postcards, artist postage stamps) by Ken Friedman, Jim Riddle, Ben Vautier and Robert Watts, placing them in a plastic case with a label of his own design on the cover. As Stephen Perkins states in his introductory essay, “Postal Strategies and The Flux Post Kit 7,”“The Flux Post Kit and the particular objects assembled within it provide a succinct example of Fluxus’ appropriation of this (postal) system into their activities.” Picasso Gaglione contributes A Study of Flux Post Kit 7, gathering primary and secondary source material relating to Flux Post Kit 7 from publications such as Fluxus Codex, Mike Crane’s Correspondence Art, and Fluxnewsletter, as well as unpublished letters from Ken Friedman.
KEN FRIEDMAN: FLUXUS RUBBER STAMPS. 1995. 110 pages.
Noted Fluxus historian Jon Hendricks notes that, “Ken Friedman was probably the Fluxus artist with the greatest sustained interest in rubber stamps from the mid 60’s onwards.” This exhibition catalog on Friedman’s rubber stamp activity includes an introductory essay on Friedman by John Held, Jr.; an essay on the history of rubber stamp art by Friedman and Georg M. Gugelberger; another essay on Friedman by Albert Phillips; facsimile reproductions of stamps produced by, and in the collection of, Friedman; and a perforated gummed stampsheet featuring Friedman’s Fluxus West rubber stamp. The exhibition ran from November 4-29, 1995.
PICASSO GAGLIONE: TAMPON TROUVÉ: THE FOUND STAMP. 1995. 14 pages.
The catalog for Gaglione’s September 1995 exhibition at the TAM Gallery, Tiburg, Holland. “This book contains the found stamp prints from the rubber found within a 100 foot area from The Stamp Art Gallery in San Francisco, from 1993 to 1995.” Found poetry from Daddaland in the tradition of Kurt Schwitters.
SANDOR GOGOLYAK. 1996. 42 pages.
Sandor Gogolyak is a young Yugoslavian artist hailing from the same town, Odzaci, as the more experienced networkers Nenad Bogdanovic and Jaroslav Supek. Gogolyak became active in the activities surrounding CAGE Magazine, which fought the cultural embargo imposed against their country by the United Nations from 1992 until 1995. This catalog documents his performances, stampsheets, rubber stamps, costumes, and other creative outlets protesting the cultural embargo.
RUDD JANSSEN. 1996. 84 pages.
On the occasion of Janssen’s October 1996 exhibition at The Stamp Art Gallery, he prepared a special form and requested that contributors send impressions of their rubber stamps directly to the Gallery. Over 80 artists from 20 countries replied. This catalog reproduces at least one work from each of the artists, as well as an essay on Janssen by John Held, Jr., biographical information, and information on the TAM Rubberstamp Archive in Tilburg, Holland.
RAY JOHNSON: BUNNY DEAD (NUMBER 2). 1996. 112 pages.
A compilation of newspaper and magazine articles, exhibition announcements, and other materials pertaining to the death of Mail Art pioneer Ray Johnson on January 13, 1995. Newspaper accounts range from regional accounts found in The Sag Harbor Express, Newsday, and The East Hampton Star to national reports in The New York Times and Village Voice. Also includes reproductions of such rare items as Johnson’s last signature on the registration card from the Baron’s Cove Inn. The publication is a part of The Stamp Art Gallery’s year long 1996 tribute to Johnson.
“COULD YOU MAKE ME A RUBBER STAMP OF THIS? ME A RUBBER STAMP OF THIS?”: THE RUBBER STAMPS OF RAY JOHNSON. 1997. 130 pages.
In 1996, John Held, Jr. took impressions of all the rubber stamps in the possession of the Ray Johnson Estate at Richard L. Feigen & Co. in New York City. Additional research turned up other rubber stamps used by Johnson in his mail art. Picasso Gaglione contributes the essay, “A Personal Story Concerning Ray Johnson and Rubber Stamps,” and John Held, Jr. provides an overview in, “The Rubber Stamps of Ray Johnson.” Over one-hundred rubber stamp impressions are reproduced in this definitive record of Johnson’s rubber stamp activity.
ALEXANDER JOVANOVIC: 1996. 48 pages.
During the United Nations cultural blockade of Serbia from 1992 to 1994, a number of actions were taken by the country’s networking artists to protest the action. Two essays introduce the work of Alexander Jovanovic, “Art in Time of Embargo,” by John Held, Jr., and “The Anti-Embargo Cage Magazine,” by Andrej Tisma. The catalog highlights two areas of Jovanovic’s activity: performances and his artist book, Unblockade Book. The work is a reminder that art can be a weapon fighting real concerns that threaten the very fabric of a shattered society.
DOBRICA KAMPERELIC: OPEN WORLD. 1997. 54 pages.
Catalog accompanying a collection of publications, notably the Serbian artist’s “Open World,” one of the longest lasting and most informative mail art periodicals. Includes the essay, “The Open World of Dobrica Kamperelic,” by John Held, Jr., and an interview with the artist conducted by Ruud Janssen.
YVES KLEIN: THE BLUE STAMP. 1996. 34 Pages.
A major investigation of Nouveau Realist painter and conceptualist Yves Klein’s 1957 Mail Art action of creating and posting an International Klein Blue postage stamp affixed to an invitation promoting his first Paris exhibitions of monochrome blue paintings. The catalog contains a major essay on the Blue Stamp by John Held, Jr., an interview conducted by Held with Klein scholar Sidra Stich, and a fax by Pierre Restany, concerning distinctions between Nouveau Realism and the School of Nice. A sheet of hand-painted blue postage stamps in the manner of Klein is also included. The catalog is illustrated with numerous uses of the Blue Stamp from a variety of sources.
MIROSLAV KLIVAR: STAMP WORKS FROM THE CZECH REPUBLIC. 1997. 40 pages.
Prepared for his April/May 1997 exhibition at The Stamp Art Gallery, Kliver’s visual poetry, collage and rubber stamp art are documented since his initial participation in the early 70s. The artist introduces the work with the essay, “Double Concept,” and also provides a listing of his many solo and group exhibitions. The listing of group exhibitions from 1961 to the present provides a unique glimpse of the Eastern European art scene.
ART FROM THE RIM: THE NEW YORK CORRESPONDANCE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO ARTISTAMP TRAVEL DIARY. 1995. 28 pages.
An account of John Held, Jr.’s attendance at the opening of Faux Post: Artist Postage Stamps from the Mail Art Network in Salem, Oregon, his performance with Picasso Gaglione to open his exhibition Netland Impressions at The Stamp Art Gallery, and a Correspondance Dinner with guests R. Seth Friedman, Patricia Tavenner, Geoffrey Cook, Diana Mars, Vickie Miguel and others. A perforated stamp sheet is included.
NEW YORK CORRASPONDENCE (sic) SCHOOL SPIT FOR DADALAND. 1997. 7 Pages.
During a 1972 meeting with Ray Johnson at his Locust Valley, New York, home, Picasso Gaglione (Dadaland) proposed a mail art event called, The New York Corraspondence School Spit for Dadaland. This catalog documents the correspondence between Johnson and Gaglione concerning the project, including several of Johnson’s “bunny lists” of participants. The original correspondence was exhibited at The Stamp Art Gallery in May 1997.
MOVING INTO NEARNESS: THE FAKE PICABIA BROS. IN NEW YORK CITY. 1996. 68 pages.
An account of Gaglione, Held,and Diana Mars, in New York City to present Stamp Art Gallery publications and boxed sets at Printed Matter, the world’s leading distributor of artists books and publications. The evening presentation is highlighted by a performance of the Fake Picabia Bros. (Gaglione and Held) with Dick Higgins, Buster Cleveland, Richard Kostelanetz, John Evans and E. F. Higgins. Other activites associated with the trip include meetings with Frances Beatty, the Executor of the Ray Johnson estate, Barbara Moore, William S. Wilson, Jon Hendricks, Larry Miller, Sara Seagull, M. B. Corbett and Arman, among many others active in the mail art, Fluxus, and alternative art communities.
PAWEL PETASZ: ARRIERE GARDE. 1996. 36 pages.
Polish artist pawel Petasz is one of the most influential alternative artists in Eastern Europe. For his November 1996 exhibition, Petasz combined his recent computer drawings with rubber stamps used in the seventies. The works in the exhibition are reproduced, as well as his earlier works, and an essay about the artist’s innovative activities over twenty years.
STAMP ACTIVITY: 1912-1920’s. 1997. 67 pages.
Tracing sources as diverse as book dealer catalogs to the correspondence of art collector Marvin Sackner, Picasso Gaglione compiled a scrapbook of the earliest know rubber stamp activity in the fine arts. Beginning with the Russian Futurists, who used rubber stamps in their book design to the eraser carvings of Marcel Duchamp, and the seminal work of Merz artist Kurt Schwitters, Gaglione begins to unlock the secret history of the medium. Essays are contributed by Charlotte Elsner, Geoffrey Cook, and John Held, Jr.
STAMP ART GALLERY. 1996. 15 pages.
Contains the essay by John Held, Jr., “Introduction to the Stamp Art Gallery’s Publications, Boxed Sets, and Video Library” and a listing of offerings by the Gallery. Illustrated. “In the five years The Stamp Art Gallery has been presenting rubber stamp artworks to the public, we have been constantly evolving, striving to unravel the history of an often fugitive and marginal artform. The publish program reflects our interests in documentation and the presentation of art as a process of discovery.”
ANDREJ TISMA: COLLECTED WRITINGS, 1986-1995. 1996. 96 pages.
An anthology of twenty essays by the Serbian artist and art critic compiled from various sources collected here for the first time. As we watch the progression of Tisma’s writings from 1986 to 1995, it is instructive to witness the change in tone as Tisma’s country is plunged deeper into war, and an economic and cultural embargo imposed on his native Serbia by the Untied Nations. The texts are accompanied by numerous rubber stamp designs created by Tisma, both hand carved and from photographs. Selected correspondence between Tisma, Gaglione, and Held also included. An important catalog presenting through source material, the dilemma of the artist when confronted with difficult political and wartime conditions.
ENDRE TOT. 1995. 46 pages.
Hungarian artist Endre Tot was an enthusiastic rubber stamper and Mail Artist in the seventies. In many ways, he raised the awareness of the medium as a conceptual tool. The catalog reproduces many of his stamps, includes a special perforated stampsheet, and provides introductory biographical material. The show at The Stamp Art Gallery was held from September 2-26, 1995.
ROBERT WATTS: ARTISTAMPS, 1961-1986. 1996. 66 pages.
Fluxus artist Robert Watts was the first artist to produce sheets of artist postage stamps. John Held, Jr. contributes two essays, an overview of Watts’ career with special attention placed on his production of artistamp sheets, and a Postal Art Chronology, which lists Watts’ major postal art actions, including the creation of postcards, artistamps, stationery, and philatelic sculpture. Letters from Larry Miller and Sara Seagull, administrators of the Robert Watts Studio Archive, contribute valuable new information about the artist. Seagull contributes an essay, detailing Watts’ working methods. Includes a perforated gummed stamp sheet by Picasso Gaglione in homage to Watts.
MAY WILSON. 1996. 107 pages.
The most thorough examination of this seminal feminist artist and early member of Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School, the catalog contains an excerpt from a work in progress, “May Wilson: a funny way of showing it,” written by her son William S. Wilson. John Held, Jr. contributes an overview of her life, “May Wilson: Grandmother to the Avant-Garde,” and a comprehensive factsheet compiled by Brenda Oelbaum contains information on Wilson’s exhibitions, and biographical citations from newspaper and magazine articles, catalogs and multi-media productions. A number of Wilson’s postcards are reproduced, many of which bear her photo stamps of “Ridiculous Portraits.” Letters to Wilson from Ray Johnson, Robert Watts, George Brecht, John Evans and Irene Dogmatic are also reproduced.
YUGOSLAVIAN NETWORKERS. 1996. 70 pages.
An overview of Yugoslavian (Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian) mail art and networking activities, from the early seventies until the present. John Held, Jr. contributes an essay, “Yugoslavian Networkers: Towards the Open World on an Unpaved Super Highway,” followed by the work of thirty-five artists including, Nenad Bogdanovic, Sandor Gogolyak, Alexndar Jovanovic, Dobrica Kamperelic, Katalin Ladik, Slavko Maktovic, Svetlana Mimica (Croatia), Jaroslav Supek, Balint Szombathy, Andrej Tisma, Miroljub Todorovic, and Darko Vulic (Bosnia).
San Francisco, 2010