Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A La Carte Postale

When I made my first post card for a 1990 exhibition in an abandoned shoe store in my home town in New York, I was slightly terrified. I had serious doubts about this enterprise. Why? I was very unsure of the marketing end of my art-making activity. Was it good enough? Too amateur? Who did I think I was to make a card? "Get over it," I told myself. "You're on your own."

I eventually chose a self-portrait standing next to one of my silhouette "baby" collages, made a photocopy, printed out a short text, and designed a page using tape and glue to hold it all in place. These were the days before scanners, digital cameras and USB keys. But I could produce decent-looking type on the Mac SE and my laster printer. When I began handing and mailing out these cards, I quickly understood the power and value of producing printed material myself. No one was going to do it for me.

That same year I wrote a feature piece for Art & Antiques magazine about artist-produced invitations, touching upon Duchamp's crumpled "readymades" sent through the mail for Julien Levy's Surrealism show, Yoko Ono's disappearing cards, Yves Klein's blue stamp for "Le Vide" at Iris Clert in Paris in 1959 (below, worth some 4000 euros) and dozens of other innovative designs that were works of art themselves. My "Immaculate Perception" collage on the invitation for the Berlin exhibition "Herzschmerz" in 2006, inaugurated Gallery Tristesse Deluxe. The image of a girl in a lemon tree went all over Berlin. [The original was purchased by French artist Eric Michel.]

Not only do these paper works – whether catalogs, post cards, posters or large-format prints – contribute to the sense of a personal history, they also reinforce an aesthetic direction. After printing more than 50 or so different cards for myself, I now work closely with artists and store owners embarking on the same trajectory. I've encouraged them to embrace the "do-it-yourself" ethic. Make postcards. Put them – and yourself – in the world. Allow people to have a compelling image and message in their pocket, on their refridgerator or bedroom wall or in their office. Give them two; they can give one to a friend.

Post cards serve as an appetizer as well as a travelling, portable art show. Send them to Beijing or Oslo, The Tate, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York (nothing mailed to MoMA is thrown out). Post cards are limited editions – tiny, inexpensive works of art. Printed in quantities ranging from 1 to 2,000, these printed rectangles, ephemeral in nature, dot one's history in a familiar and friendly way, but also generate value and interest in all directions, particularly when the original art work has already been sold. A cancelled stamp on it gives the post card a bit more history. Duchamp's invitation for Julien Levy's Surrealism show – a crumpled poster stuffed into an envelope is a sought-after collectible work of art. His "Rectified Readymade," his French pun – L.H.O.O.Q. – on the Mona Lisa from 1919 is an icon of modern art. It began its life as a post card of yet another icon.

Creative and graphic efforts that issue from the launch of an exhibition, restaurant, boutique (or even your blog) go down in history, and sometimes up in value. Those little squares of paper end up creating the biggest sensation. Ms. Glaze, a four-star chef sensation and video star as well as friend of Lalande offered me one of her amazing dishes in a digital version for this postcard promotion, "A La Carte Postale," targetting restaurants and bistros in Paris.

I tell all Lalande clients taking their first steps in printing that the post card has great power and potential – a small work that speaks when you're not around. Send me your images and comments about your post cards: E-mail or call: 01 53 68 16 10. We want to know how you became famous.

2 comments:

Christine Tarantino said...

Dear MATTHEW,
I just read from your LALANDE blog( I really like what
you do):"When I began handing and mailing out these
cards, I quickly understood the power and value of
producing printed material myself. No one was going to
do it for me."--
I so get this!! Years ago I turned down an offer from
a NYC publisher to get my ideas into print...we had a
conflict over illustrations...I was heartbroken at the
time. However I did it myself and that began my life
as a word-artist and bookmaker.
CHRISTINE TARANTINO

Expat Traveler said...

I absolutely love this concept and think I need to touch on some of my work this way here in Vancouver.