Friday, January 17, 2014

Mail Art: A conceptual sculpture at Winkleman Gallery

(UPDATE: The exhibition was reviewed by Holland Cotter in the New York Times.  Read the review here.)

Yevgeniy Fiks , who organized this exhibition, asked a group of artists and scholars to respond to his archive of Soviet Russian images depicting Africans and African-Americans.  The results are on view at Winkleman Gallery through Feb. 22, 2014 in “The Wayland Rudd Collection” .

Though it spans decades, the archive is named after Wayland Rudd, an African-American actor who moved to Russia in the 1930’s, to escape the racism he faced in the U.S.

I was very interested in the postage stamp images in the archive, and chose to respond to those. There are Russian stamps depicting Nelson Mandela, a raised Black Power fist, and several variations of idealized, racially diverse groups of children and adults.  I turned those stamp images into stationery letterhead for a mail art project.  Participants were asked to respond – in words or visuals – to the story of Wayland Rudd and its aftermath, in relation to their own identity and our present moment.  Respondents include artists, antiracist organizers, scholars, and performers.

I hand made envelopes for participants to use to mail back their responses in.  Each envelope is a fragment of a large photo of Wayland Rudd and his Russian wife, Paulina Marksiti.  After the envelopes were mailed back to me (stamped with vintage Paul Robeson stamps), I reassembled the photo fragments.  The gallery installation includes this large image – sewn into clear vinyl – alongside a binder of participants’ mail art responses.

Artists in the exhibition: Ivan Brazhkin, Michael Paul Britto, Suzanne Broughel, Maria Buyondo, Zachary Fabri, Joy Garnett, Alexey Katalkin, Kara Lynch, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Nikolay Oleynikov and Arkadiy Kots Band, Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya (Gluklya), Jenny Polak, Dread Scott, and Haim Sokol

"Mail Conversation (For Wayland Rudd)" by Suzanne Broughel, 2014
Materials: Laser prints on paper, vinyl, binder containing correspondence.
Top photo: courtesy of Louis Chan    Bottom photo: courtesy of Ray Llanos

Mail Art Participants: