Envelopes to Assemble: “Original Mail Art by Sas Colby”, series 1978-79
Collage and assemblage, printed on Color Xerox, 8.5” x 14”
Unique-Available please inquire
These “Envelopes to Assemble” are an offshoot of my interest in mail art. They were designed as a product to sell in museum shops and galleries. There are 16 in the series, plus a Valentine book to assemble. The originals are collaged with paper, textiles and other findings, on 8.5” x 14” boards. An unlimited number was printed on the color Xerox machines at the local copy shop up until the early 80s.
Sas Colby - Working in Color Xerox, 1978-81
In the late 1970’s color, Xerox became my medium of choice for reproducing the delicate figure drawings I stitched on vintage handkerchiefs. The Xerox prints
transformed a singular artwork into multiples, creating pages for erotic books. There was a performative aspect to the process as I arranged the textiles on the platen, often adding flowers, leaves and other found objects. This was all accomplished under the pressure of time, in public, at the Krishna Copy Center on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. Other artists were waiting in line with their own projects, and one had to make the most of one’s time at the machine. We worked with a sympathetic operator, Ravi, who became our unwitting collaborator. If you developed a good relationship with him, Ravi might let you work alone, if he was convinced you wouldn’t be experimenting with odd papers that could jam the machine, upsetting everyone’s plans to be a self-publisher that very day.
The color Xerox process added an interactive dimension to the static drawings of men, women and body parts as I arranged them in provocative combinations, thus creating narratives. I also experimented with printing on transparencies, and hand coloring on black and white Xerox which had a good surface tooth. These prints were assembled into a series of erotic books to which I added sensuous rice papers. The plastic coiled binding was also done at the copy shop. Instant publishing was addicting! To this day, fifty years later, I recall the thrill of returning to my studio, laying out the virgin copies, and assembling editions of books.
Some projects were more straightforward, and it was just a matter of printing the collages that had been completed in the studio. I also made facsimile copies of my fabric books, creating a trompe l’oeil effect with the line of real stitching next to the copied stitching. It was thrilling how color Xerox captured the detail of threads and small found objects. The pages were sewn back to back and even seemed to take on the quality of the original fabric. I sold many copies of these books, and they’re in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, among many others.
Other experiments with Xerox included: degrading the image by making multiple copies of copies, and moving the image on the platen; printing color Xerox over B&W Xerox. Although I documented my work with slides, I preferred creating a portfolio by actually making color Xerox prints of the original art, (“Peace Envelopes,” 1988.) A series of 15 envelopes to assemble, called “Original Mail Art,” 1978-79, produced to sell in museum shops, were comprised of small found objects added to collaged backgrounds.
We sold a lot of Xerox art, including prints, postcards, and zines, at the AART STORE, a collaborative project run by artists, on College Avenue in Oakland, CA, June to December 1979. There we had an enthusiastic market, providing instant feedback, and constant inspiration for us to keep on creating. Those were heady days of artistic interaction, spontaneous gatherings, performances, and a fulfilling sense of a responsive community for our art.
Sas Colby, Oct. 2017