Critics’ Picks

View of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” 2011.

View of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” 2011.

New York

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered”

319 Grand Street
December 2, 2011–January 14, 2012

This lively show features nine artists whose work references or engages directly with various systems of correspondence, such as telegram, FedEx, and e-mail. The pieces range from illustrated and collaged envelopes to handmade postcards to an abstract interpretation of a Twitter feed. The selection, which spans the past six decades, reveals the impact of technology on written communication and also demonstrates the influence of mail art, the genre Ray Johnson is credited with fathering in the 1960s, on artists who wrestle with issues of temporality, intentionality, and authorship.

The earliest piece on view is from On Kawara’s 1968–79 “I Got Up” series. The postcard sent to New York from Mexico is dated August 26, 1968, and carries the simple typed message I GOT UP AT 10:44 AM. Various temporal markers—typed date and time, postmark, transit wear and tear—highlight the gaps between the moment the artist got out of bed and sent the postcard, its overseas journey, and, finally, its reception. More recent work by Walead Beshty flaunts the physicality of delivery. Here Beshty presents SSCC 139751 REV 10/05 “FedEx® Large Box,” Priority Overnight (Los Angeles-Chicago trk#837549197959, Chicago-New York trk#865651051269), 2007, one of a series of works in which he sends glass cubes (custom designed to fit snugly inside a FedEx box) to various recipients. The final artwork, an unofficial collaboration with FedEx, is the semishattered cube displayed alongside souvenirs from its formative journey—the opened box replete with waybill, time stamps, and dated forms.

In addition to art that bears physical and temporal scars from the postal system, this show also explores the emotional aspects of correspondence. For instance, Sophie Calle’s “Take Care of Yourself” project (first presented at the 2007 Venice Biennale) represents the artist’s attempt to recover from a breakup (transmitted to her via e-mail). Take Care of Yourself. Journalist, Florence Aubenas, 2007, consists of the letter Calle received from the French newspaper Liberation rejecting her request to have her breakup e-mail published, framed next to a photograph of the artist, on her knees, reading this second rejection.