"Artistamp artists are reflecting the diversity of the international cultural community."

Introducing International Artistamps

from the Exhibition Catalogue of
International Artistamps

The Stamp Art Gallery
San Francisco
December 1 - 31, 1995

With this inaugural exhibition of International Artistamps, The Stamp Art Gallery becomes the first venue in the world to feature artist postage stamps on a regular basis. To introduce this field to those unfamiliar with it, we are showing one work from over 450 artists represented in the Dadaland Collection of Picasso Gaglione, and the Modern Realism Archive of John Held, Jr., making it the largest survey of artistamps artists ever shown.

Following the December 1995 exhibition, the Stamp Art Gallery will feature a different postage stamp artist each month throughout 1996. Artists have been selected for their historic contribution, their sustained involvement, and their influence on contemporary currents in the field.

The term "artistamp" was coined by the late Canadian artist Michael Bidner, who was the first person to attempt a systematic survey of artists using the postage stamp format. Upon his death on April 5, 1989, Bidner had not yet completed his planned Standard Artistamp Catalogue, and his collection of source materials was sent to the Artpool Archives in Budapest, Hungary. The Stamp Art Gallery artistamp program is dedicated to his memory.

The artistamp field had it's roots in the late fifties and early sixties, when artists began incorporating popular imagery and commercial techniques into their works. The Pop Artists are but one example of this. More radical movements, such as the New Realists and Fluxus, incorporated these ideas and extended their range.

Yves Klein, the French New Realist painter, performance artist, conceptualist, and inventor of his own color, Klein International Blue, made an 1KB postage stamp and affixed it to an exhibition invitation in 1957. Robert Watts, a Fluxus artist, began printing his own stamps in 1961. Other Fluxus artists, such as George Maciunas and Ken Friedman, were also creating artistamps in the sixties. Donald Evans, well known for his hand painted postage stamps, began doing so in 1957 when he was twelve years old.

In the early seventies, many Mail Artists turned to the copier machine for the production of artistamps. E.F. Higgins III, Carl Chew, and Buster Cleveland began using the color copier to great effect, and soon after the entire Mail Art community had appropriated the postage stamp medium for their own purposes.

The influx of activity resulted in a 1974 exhibition organized by James Felter at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. Artists Stamps and Stamp Images contained the work of thirty-five artists and seven art groups from nine countries, and toured extensively in Canada and Switzerland. this was the first of many artistamp exhibitions, including several held in National Museums (including Hungary, France, and Switzerland).

A new development in artistamp production in the nineties has been the addition of the computer and the color laser printer. Of continuing interest are the social concerns and political beliefs inherited from the artistamp medium's continuing association with Mail Art. Some of the most interesting artistamps being produced today are those by Yugoslavian artists protesting the cultural embargo imposed on their country. Whether politically motivated, or driven purely by the desire to create, artistamp artists are reflecting the diversity of the international cultural community.

For more information contact
John Held, Jr. Curator
Stamp Art Gallery
466 8th Street
San Francisco, Calfornia
USA 94103

Phone (415) 252-5975
Fax: (415) 252-5978

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