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USPS does it right!

June 7, 2010

I was truly delighted to see the new Postage Stamps being offered by the United States Postal Service. Ten excellent examples of Abstract Expressionist painters. Pinch me. These are my heros. I don’t love all their work but I love the myth, art history, personalities and the triumph of the New York School over the art world epicenter of Paris at the dawning of the nuclear age.  Okay, I’m showing my stripes as occasionally old school but I do love sending a snail mail missive. That decorative decision which stamp to place on a correspondence is an extra nice, possibly completely overlooked, touch. It might be chosen with the recipient in mind or it might act as a desired broadcast of the senders aesthetic predilections. It might be subversive as when I placed a Simpsons stamp to a friend who works for Disney.

One aspect of this event tickles me by the very design of the stamps themselves. Rather than having an image of the paintings be marred by the 44 cent designation and the Name of the Artist, the USPS in an uncommon move of reverence placed the 44 cent outside of the field of the image to the bottom right with the name of the artist at the bottom left. The result is a version of these paintings that could convincingly grace a wall on a doll house. Credit has to be leveled on Art Director Ethel Kessler for creating a tasteful honoring of these titans of post war modern art.

I grew up marveling over the differences between Germany and America. One core visual difference was the images on the money. Portraits by Durer, images of pianos, clarinets, oak leaves, sextant, poets, mathematicians, doctors and composers festooned the color engraved fields. In contrast, the greenback seemed drab, conservative and monotone in its monochromatic resolution. The Thousand Deutsche Mark held an image of the Brothers Grimm for god sake! Metaphor and the arts are valued in europe so much more.

The only peeve that I have with the selection is the glaring omission of Franz Kline. Of the heavy hitters of that era, it seems to me that Kline is often overlooked, qualitatively and financially. And while I really do adore Robert Motherwell, one could make a convincing case that he is second generation abstract expressionist.

Cheers to the irascibles anyway!

Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 7th, 2010


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  1. Robert Ziebell permalink

    If you put the Katherine Hepburn and Kate Smith stamp on the same envelope with the Pollock stamp you barely have room for an address. It sets up an interesting bombastic in your face letter. Add a touch of a priority mail sticker on the back of the envelope and just about any curator might be curious enough to open.

    But then who sends anything by mail anymore?

  2. Courtney permalink

    I am a stamper tride and true and I so appreciate that you have tripped the old school fantastic. I am currently creating a line of stationary and cards to jump start snail mail letter writing. Not only should we try to keep the unemployable employed “…you can always get a job at the post office” (Perhaps I offend here but I didn’t coin this phrase) But we should also bring back the personal touch. We simply do not touch enough. Hand written letters are the closest things we have to a long distance hug. What joy? What love? And, it makes health sense; have a seat, pick a favorite writing utensil, relax, choose the venue – note card? bond? parchment? breathe deeply and compose. Relax… How disquieting could this be? Breathing, sitting, creating, sending a small piece of oneself? And best of all seal it with a stamp, front and back. Oh the portraits, and images full of color and memory. I love stamps and would fill my whole envelope with them if I really could.
    Much love, Mario you’re the best


    • Courtney!
      I could not agree more! As the internet and texting have proliferated the short note, my snail mail has died down to merely bills and advertisements. It is in this context that a personal note has become even more important! Although when I am the lucky recipient I languish in guilt for not getting back to someone in kind. Time is precious and thus the gift of a personal note is made even more remarkable! I’m cooking up a blog post about my awe inspiring visit to Millenium Park back in September so stay tuned. Thanks for the terrific comment and your enthusiasm.

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