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Sunday, October 14, 2012


Mail Art Makes the World a Town is an exhibition of international Mail Art curated from the collection of Cheryl Penn opening on Monday (October 15) in the Main Gallery at artSPACEdurban.

While some consider the early avant-garde postal system experiments to be the first stirrings of Mail Art, the New York Correspondence School established by Ray Johnson in the early 1960’s appears to be the popular locus of practice for free artistic exchange through the mailing system.

Mail Art is considered an alternative art practice in continual flux – hence its ties to the Fluxus art movement. Largely unimpeded by pretentiousness, absence of hierarchy and commercialism, Mail Art is an inclusive practice of trans-disciplinary tradition. Traded artworks can range from music, sound, visual poetry, literature and letters to artist stamps, postcards and chapbooks. In fact, if it can be delivered through the postal system, there is the possibility it has been sent. Mail Art has as yet remained a practice without academic critique.

Characteristically, mail artists may have hundreds of artists with whom they correspond, but most tend to maintain a core group of preferred artists with which to exchange. The collection Cheryl Penn has gathered over a two-year period includes Zines, letters, postcards, lino/wood cuts, drawings, paintings, books, artefacts, collaborations, chapbooks, poetry, artists trading cards and artists stamps.

The collection includes work from Latvia, Slovenia, Russia, China, Australia, USA, UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, New Zealand, Japan and Finland to name a few countries. Within this practice of free exchange, Penn has coordinated a few collaborative artists’ book projects, some of which involve upwards of 50 international artists. She has also had successful Mail Art calls titled Mona Lisa, Red, and Heart Matters. In celebration of the first Mail Art exhibition in South Africa ,she has organized the Zine Mail Art Makes the World a Town – now in its third edition. This year alone Penn has participated in exhibitions in over seven countries.

This artist uses the phraseology “the authentic massacre of the innocent image” to title and describe her mail art practice of cutting up and posting pieces of large paintings – some upwards of 5 metres long. Each mailed envelope is accompanied by text, a photographic image of the original painting and a postcard sized piece of the work, such ‘massacred’ works include “The Bridge” (Image 1) and “Shadows on the Bridge” (Image 2). Penn is currently cutting up and posting her 13th painting in two years.

Mail Art Makes the World a Town runs from October 15 to November 3. artSPACE durban is situated at 3 Millar Road (off Umgeni Road) close to the Waste Centre. More information on 031 312 0793 or visit or