A Finding Aid to the John Held Papers Relating to Mail Art in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.heldjohn
Creators:
Held, John, 1947-
Dates:
1973-2013
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
11.9 Linear Feet
Repository:
The papers of rubberstamp and artistamp artist, performance artist, collector of mail art, and fine arts librarian John Held, Jr. date from 1973-2013, and measure 11.9 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical material, 18 printed diaries, letters received by Held from mail artists around the world, art work consisting of artistamps designed by miscellaneous mail artists, interview transcripts, writings, project and event files, printed material, and mail art sent for the Gutai Historical Survey Exhibition held at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2013.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of rubberstamp and artistamp artist, performance artist, collector of mail art, and fine arts librarian John Held, Jr. date from 1973-2013, and measure 11.9 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical material, 18 printed diaries, letters received by Held from mail artists around the world, art work consisting of artistamps designed by miscellaneous mail artists, interview transcripts, writings, project and event files, printed material, and mail art sent for the Gutai Historical Survey Exhibition held at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2013.
Scattered biographical material consists primarily of miscellanous biographical writings and accounts. Eighteen printed diaries provide very brief descriptions of daily activities and more detailed descriptions of art mail events, conferences, and travel experiences.
Letters comprise the largest and most important series in the collection. Letters received by John Held, Jr. are from an extensive number of national and international mail artists, including Mark Bloch, Hans Braumüller, Jean Brown, William Gaglione (a.k.a. Picasso Gaglione), Dick Higgins, Ray Johnson, Shozo Shimamoto, Ryosuke Cohen, Michael Leigh, Guglielmo Cavellini, and Rod Summers. There are also scattered letters from Carl Andre and Clement Greenberg, typescripts of letters sent by Held, and a file of letters exchanged with Steve Durland.
There are twelve folders of artistamps, non-official or pseudo-postage stamps designed by miscellaneous participants in the international mail art network.
Transcripts are of interviews conducted by John Held, Jr. with some of the more notable artists involved with the mail art movement including Al Ackerman, John Cage, Ray Johnson, and Allan Kaprow. There are also interviews with John Held, Jr., William (Picasso) Gaglione, and Milan Knizak, including an interview with Held conducted by Ruud Janssen.
Extensive writings by John Held, Jr. consist of catalog essays, miscellaneous essays, bibliographies, miscellaneous box set texts, and miscellaneous typescripts. Project and event files concern miscellaneous projects, tours, lectures, and exhibitions with which John Held, Jr. was involved.
Printed material consists primarily of printouts of Bibliozone issues, a newsletter, exhibition catalogs, and press releases concerning mail art.
The Gutai exhibition project files include printed material related to the 2013 Experimental Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the mid-Winter Burning Sun: Gutai Historical Survey and Contemporary Response held at the San Francisco Art Institute. The bulk of the series consists of mail art created by over 135 artists who were asked to submit work inspired by Gutai and the artist Shozo Shimamoto.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 9 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1990-1999 (5 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Diaries, 1990-2000 (20 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 3: Letters, 1973-2008 (7.9 linear feet; Box 1-8, Box 12)
  • Series 4: Artwork, 1985-2007 (12 folders; Box 8)
  • Series 5: Interview Transcripts, 1977-1995 (7 folders; Box 8)
  • Series 6: Writings, 1984-2000 (0.5 linear feet; Box 8)
  • Series 7: Project and Event Files, 1982-2000 (11 folders; Box 8)
  • Series 8: Printed Material, 1989-2000 (11 folders; Box 8)
  • Series 9: Gutai Exhibition Project Files, 2012-2013 (Box 9-11, Box 13, OV 14)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
John Held, Jr. (born 1947) of San Francisco, California, is a rubberstamp and artistamp artist, participant in the international mail art network, activist, performance artist, collector of mail art, and a fine arts librarian.
Jonathan Held was born on April 2, 1947. In the mid-1970s he took the name of the early twentieth century illustrator, John Held, Jr., famous for his images of "flapper girls" in the 1920s. This name change was both in tribute to the older artist as well as an expression of Dada.
Earning a Bachelor's Degree in 1969, Held received a Master of Library Science Degree from Syracuse University School of Information Studies in 1972 and expanded his interests toward participating in the international mail art network and assembling one of the largest archives of mail art in the United States. He was mentored by mail artist Ray Johnson, and Jean Brown, a leading participant in Fluxus, and whose interest in the Dada and Surrealism movements promoted emerging art forms including mail art, visual poetry, and artists' books.
From 1981 to 1995, Held was a Fine Arts Librarian at the Dallas Public Library. In 1982, he began making artistamps, pseudo-postage stamps used as an art medium, and opened the Modern Realism Gallery and Archive in Dallas, Texas, with his future wife Paula Barber. The gallery sought to preserve the record of contemporary avant-garde cultural activity.
Held published Mail Art: An Annotated Bibliography, a five-hundred page listing of secondary sources on the field in 1991. In 1996, Held moved to San Francisco, California, where he established the Modern Realism Gallery and acted as curator of the Stamp Art Gallery, an exhibition space devoted to rubberstamp and artistamp works.
John Held, Jr. has lectured at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Havana; and at the National School of Art, Prague. He participated in international exhibitions and, since 1986, engaged in international performance work, appearing in Japan, Russia, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia, as well as in the United States. One of Held's more notable performance creations is the Fake Picabia Brothers, in partnership with artist Picasso Gaglione.
John Held, Jr. lives in San Francisco, California.

Administration
Processing Information
The 1999 and 2008 accretions were merged, arranged, and described by Jean Fitzgerald in July 2009. Materials received in 2013 were processed and added to the collection by Judy Ng and the collection was digitized in 2014-2015, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Existence and Location of Copies
This collection was digitized in its entirety in 2014-2015 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald & Judy Ng
Sponsor
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Provenance
John Held donated his papers relating to Mail Art in 1999, 2008, and 2013.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1973-2013. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The John Held papers relating to Mail Art are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rubber stamps Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stamp collecting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cinderella materials (Philately) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mail art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Performance artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Librarians Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cavellini, Guglielmo Achille, 1914- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Durland, Steve Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Summers, Rod Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brown, Jean, 1911- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cage, John, 1912-1992 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bloch, Mark, 1956- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Braumuller, Hans, 1966- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Andre, Carl, 1935- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ackerman, Blaster Al, 1939-2013 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gutai Bijutsu Kyōkai Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
San Francisco Art Institute Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cohen, Ryosuke, 1948- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Leigh, Michael Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Shimamoto, Shozo, 1928- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Greenberg, Clement, 1909-1994 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Knizák, Milan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kaprow, Allan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Johnson, Ray, 1927- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Janssen, Ruud, 1959- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Higgins, Dick, 1938- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gaglione, Bill Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/