Seventy-three Artistic Productions from the SixtiesJohn Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, Yoko Ono, and Other Diverse Hands. [William Copley, editor]. LIMITED. SMS: A Collection of Original Multiples. New York: The Letter Edged in Black Press, 1968. Limited to two thousand unnumbered sets of six original boxed portfolios, containing a total of seventy-three pieces of art in various media, many of which are three dimensional. Issued bi-monthly from February to December 1968, these portfolios represent a compilation of the art of the 1960's, and as such, present an historic overview of that period. Contributions from the likes of Richard Artschwager, James Byars, John Cage, Christo, William Copley, Marcel Duchamp, Hollis Frampton, John Giorno, Richard Hamilton, Ray Johnson, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono, Lil Picard, Meret Oppenheim, Mel Ramos, George and Jean Reavey, Dieter Roth, Hannah Weiner, Lawrence Weiner, LaMonte Young, and others.
"In 1981 William Copley made a gift of the remaining sets of SMS to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. The Reinhold-Brown Gallery, in association with the New Museum, is now making these complete original sets available for the first time in two decades. Each portfolio comes with its original mailing case..." [from the twenty-page pamphlet issued in 1988 by the Reinhold-Brown Gallery with an introductory essay "SMS: Art in Real Time" by Carter Ratcliff and an illustrated contents list.]
Each of the seventy-three productions is a detailed replica of the original item, preserving its look and feel, therefore "original multiples." Along with a variety of printed ephemera, there is a record with a seven minute recording by Marcel Duchamp on word play, a burned bow-tie from performance artist Lil Picard, materials and instructions to assemble a plexiglass vice trapping a tube of paint by Arman, "Asylum Manuscripts" by Buyberry Insane Asylum inmate Princess Winifred on five coarse brown paper towels, a cassette tape of "Drift Study 4:37:40-5:09:50 5 VIII 68" by avant-garde composer La Monte Young (made in 1968 for the mailing, but never included), cover art by Congo the chimp from Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape, and much more.
Mailing boxes with edge wear, fold wear and few tab tears, light discolorations, small circular numbered sticker on each spine. Portfolios from February, April, August, and October are opened. June and December do not appear to have been opened. As the items come in a variety of dimensions, and are tightly packed, there is some light wear. The paint from Arman's vice appears to have leaked in its bag. Nonetheless, a well preserved set of six portfolios of artwork from the Sixties.
Please visit HA.com/6127 for an extended description of this lot.
Founded by American Surrealist artist William Copley, the SMS studios was "a haven for both accomplished and aspiring artists.
"No manifesto made the claim then, so one must make it now: SMS turned art into the vehicle of Utopian wishes. First, it removed all boundaries between the mediums. Everything, from poetry to performance to traditional print making, received equal treatment. This principle of equality carried over to money matters: every contributor, no matter how illustrious, received a flat $100 for his or her work. Moreover, SMS bypassed the hierarchical labyrinth of museums and established galleries. Portfolios were sent directly to subscribers on the faith that an audience put in immediate contact with art would have a direct and therefore powerful response.
"This faith, the foundation of the SMS Utopia, was to some extent justified. Yet some of the potential audience must have felt bewildered by the prospect of receiving in the mail a heterogeneous bundle of artworks announced but unexplained. You undid the parcel and made whatever you could of the plentitude that tumbled out."
-Carter Ratcliff, "SMS: Art in Real Time." New York: Reinhold-Brown Gallery, 1988.
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