“How Could I Know Then That They Would Walk into My Life and Change It Forever?”
45 (of 51) black & white photographic postcards constituting the artist’s famed mail art piece; photographs by Philip (Phel) Steinmetz. Photographic postcards, all stamped & postmarked. N.p.: Self-published, 9 February 1971-9 July 1973.
An impressive near-complete collection of Eleanor Antin’s postcards, all mailed on, or in one case before, the designated mailing dates noted in the eponymous 1999 monograph on the piece. All of these serially mailed photographic postcards, except for one (100 Boots in the Market, no. 4), were sent to the movie and stage actress Ruth Ford (1911-2009), the host of legendary salons at her apartment in the Dakota, attended by the likes of William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Cecil Beaton, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Andy Warhol. The outlier card was sent to Bell Labs engineer Billy Klüver (1927-2004), a creative force who bridged the void between artists and rapidly evolving technologies, most notably co-founding E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) with Fred Waldhauer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Whitman.
Mailed sets with address labels, stamps, and postmarks are quite difficult to procure. Antin began with a substantial mailing list of around 1000, but that was rapidly whittled down as addresses changed over the course of two-plus years, some recipients even requesting that Antin stop. The stamped postmarks in our set match those found in the book 100 Boots. Having survived the vagaries of the postal service, several of the present cards are creased or lightly stained; nonetheless, the overall collection is in remarkably nice condition. We believe that mailed sets, stamped, postmarked, and with traces of handling, are far more desirable than untouched ones.
“I was a conceptual artist in those days, and since I didn’t know the Los Angeles art scene yet and the San Diego one didn’t exist, I trekked back to New York regularly to put up shows in noncommercial galleries they called ‘alternate spaces’…In the fall, I flew back from New York after an especially grueling show that I had to book into the old Chelsea Hotel when my gallery went belly-up. I was exhausted, buggy, lonely. There had to be a way to get art in front of people other than sticking it in between the blank white walls of New York galleries…
“Why not the mail? In those days, all I needed was a six-cent stamp for a first-class postcard. Hadn’t the great novels of Dickens and Dostoyevsky been presented first in serial form? So maybe a story in installments, a long one, maybe a novel, a road novel like Kerouac’s, a picaresque story but in pictures—on postcards—through the mail…All picaresque novels have a hero, a dumb charmer—D’Artagnan was a jerk, Tom Jones was a fool, and Don Quixote was a madman—and mine wouldn’t talk. He would be an outsider, a hero who could carry a long, leisurely work. I didn’t want a one-liner, I wanted an epic…
“One night my hero came to me in a dream—‘100 Boots Facing the Sea.’ The next day I went down to the Army Navy surplus store and bought 100 black, rubber boots. Nothing special about them—just plain, large, black, rubber boots. How could I know then that they would walk into my life and change it forever?”–E. Antin, “Remembering 100 Boots,” 100 Boots (Running Press: 1999), pp. [6-7].
A complete list of our set is available on request.
An impressive, almost complete assemblage of this sought-after mail art piece; a few cards in very good condition due to mailing, the rest are near fine or fine.
❧ E. Antin, 100 Boots (Running Press: 1999).
Ted Purves, “Tickets, Trips, and Passports: Thoughts about Travel, Souvenirs, and Contemporary Art,” S. Leiber, curator, Extra Art: A Survey of Artists’ Ephemera, 1960-1999 (2001), p. 40 (pictured on p. 38).
P. Aarons & A. Roth, eds., Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955 (2009), pp. 40-43.
Item ID: 8993