Curated by Kathleen Reinhardt and first shown at the Albertinum Museum in Dresden, this exhibition is a living homage to the history of Mail Art and visual poetry and a recognition of their ongoing resonance.
Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt (b. 1932) was active as an artist in East Germany from the beginning of the 1970s until 1990, when peaceful revolution brought an end to East Germany. Using an Erika-brand typewriter, she developed complex graphic compositions juxtaposing text and image. Her timeless “typewritings”—diagrams, patterns, abstract fluxes of poetry, and collages—form the core of this presentation. Although Wolf-Rehfeldt worked in East Berlin and was subject to travel restrictions and strongly surveilled communication, she was an active member of the international Mail Art movement and corresponded with artists in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States. Therefore, her work can be found today in many international archives.
Global in scope, Mail Art was particularly prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s in places where artists experienced state censorship, linking individual practitioners with shared sensibilities who were otherwise separated by different political and cultural contexts. This legacy is taken up and extended by Los Angeles-based artist David Horvitz (b. 1982), whose experimental and ongoing exchange with Wolf-Rehfeldt provided the impetus for a two-person presentation. For Horvitz, Mail Art still encompasses ideas of distance, travel, and movement. Like Wolf-Rehfeldt, he deals with processes of circulation and interconnectedness, exploring how thoughts and feelings become signs and actions.
The personal admiration and bond between Wolf-Rehfeldt and Horvitz inspired an exhibition strongly anchored in the present through their dialogical exchange. Both artists are divided by generations and worlds, yet their wit, poetry, and conception of art reach toward the same horizon.
This exhibition is organized by the Albertinum (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) and the Wende Museum, and curated by Kathleen Reinhardt and Joes Segal.
Photos by Ian Byers-Gamber