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In “Going Postal,” Martha Cooper Puts Her Unique Photographic Stamp on One of Street Art’s Most Distinctive Techniques
January 29, 2009
Contact: Joel Samberg
New York, NY, January 5, 2009 — With persistence and admiration, Martha Cooper spent the last few years photographing the work of urban street artists who share ideas, viewpoints and other personal expressions in public using common postal stickers in uncommon ways. Because they are freely accessible in large quantities, postal stickers have long been the preferred substrate of many street artists. Cooper celebrates their work in a new book called “Going Postal,” from Mark Batty Publisher, a leader in distinctive books covering the graphic and communication arts.
In what she calls “a spirit of historical preservation,” Cooper sought out the most interesting work of these artists, whose use of this old-school method has turned it into another rich facet of the world’s many graffiti cultures. By documenting both the named and the anonymous artists who practice the art of postal sticker expression, Cooper shows the tireless nature of their artistic pursuits—and their sometimes subversive approaches. Most of the ‘canvases’ she documents in “Going Postal” are blank stickers from the United States Postal Service, along with some from the other major delivery services.
Cooper, who in 1977 was the first woman to join the full-time photography staff at the New York Post, traces her career to the internship she served at National Geographic in 1968 (as one of only three interns selected annually). Freelancing for the last few years, she has lived and photographed in Thailand, Japan, England and all over the United States.
She began photographing graffiti in 1978, but began to focus on artistically rendered postal stickers and tags, mostly from the USPS, in 2003. “This book is a continuation of my longstanding interest in and investigation of urban ephemeral art and architecture,” Cooper said. “In addition to that, I am attracted to anything still made by hand in our mass-produced world.”
“Going Postal” features sticker and tag art from dozens of urban artists working mostly in New York and Philadelphia, with samples also from Baltimore, San Francisco, Berlin, Tokyo, Amsterdam and elsewhere. The artwork represents a broad spectrum of styles and ideas, from farcical faces and political statements (featuring Presidents Reagan and Bush), to angry doodles and unusual statements (“This is America, dude. Learn the rules”), to whimsical caricatures and cartoon animals (mice, bears and inconclusive species).
“Going Postal,” which lists for just $9.95, also includes an illuminating essay by Cooper called “Stuck on Stickers” about her work and the work of her subjects.