Lomholt Mail Art Archive

Index: John Held


John Held, Jr. (New York, 1947- ) has been an active participant in the alternative arts, especially the fields of Mail Art, Rubber Stamp Art, Artist Publications, DiY and Zine Cultures since 1975, playing a significant role in the encouragement and reception of these emerging artistic genres in leading cultural institutions and publications throughout the world. Facets of his collection have been placed at the Getty Research Library (Los Angeles, CA) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY). His papers are in The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.). Held has been listed in "Who's Who in American Art," since 1982.

Attaining a Masters of Information Science from Syracuse University in 1972, Held worked for twenty-five years as an art librarian in New York State, Maryland, and Dallas, Texas (1981-1995). He currently resides in San Francisco, California, where he directs Modern Realism Gallery and Archive, and is a staff writer for San Francisco Arts Quarterly.

Since moving to San Francisco in 1995, Held has curated exhibitions for San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art Library (1996), Main Public Library (1998), Center for the Book (2000, 2014) and the San Francisco Art Institute (2013). He was the subject of a KQED public television profile (2004) as an art collector. Works from his collection were exhibited at Linc Art (2005), Ever Gold (the subject of an Artforum review, 2010) and Robert Berman/E6 Gallery (22015). Held was the curator at the Stamp Art Gallery, San Francisco, California, from 1995-1998, producing numerous catalogs and multiples relating to the twentieth century avant-garde.

Maintaining an active correspondence with a worldwide circle of artists and friends, Held has exhibited, published, lectured, and performed internationally since the mid-seventies in Europe, Russia, Asia, South America and throughout the United States. My Spiritual Life was exhibited in South Korea (2006), Fluxus Commemoritves, was shown in Paris, France (2005). Held curated an exhibition of Mail Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba (1995); presented a lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1991).

His artistic mediums include mail art, performance art, rubber stamps, artist postage stamps, collage and painting. Held's first significant exhibit was at Stampelplaats Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland (1976). Exhibitions in the former Soviet Union, Japan, Cuba, South Korea, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Yugoslavia followed, totaling over thirty solo shows in twelve countries, with participation in over one-thousand group exhibitions, including those in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Musée de la Poste, Paris.

Held is a noted performance artist, having collaborated with artists associated with earlier 20th Century avant-gardes, including Shozo Shimamoto (Gutai), Dick Higgins (Fluxus) and Ray Johnson (New York Correspondance School). He has performed at noted institutions including the National Theater (Novi Sad, Yugoslavia), Academy of Art (Budapest, Czech Republic); State University (Tartu, Estonia); Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, Texas); Musée de la Poste (Paris, France); and Franklin Furnace Archives (New York, New York).

He has authored Mail Art: An Annotated Bibliography, (Scarecrow Press, London, 1991), Rubber Stamp Art, (AAA Edizioni, Italy, 1999), Where the Secret is Hidden (TAM Publications, 2011) and Small Scale Subversion: Mail Art and Artistamps (TAM Publications, 2015); contributed to The Grove Dictionary of Art (2000), Conversing with Cage (2003) and At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet (MIT Press, 2005). He is currently a staff writer for San Francisco Arts Quarterly.

Held has lectured widely including Reed College, Portland, Oregon (2003) Minnesota Center for the Book Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2004), Sacramento State University, Sacramento, California (2004), Museum of Communication, Berlin, Germany (2004), California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2005), Parco Foundation, Casier, Italy (2005), New York Center for the Book (2008), and the Black Mountain College Museum, Ashville, NC (2010 & 2011).

Events the past decade have included an exhibition of Russian Futurist inspired works at the Mayakovsky State Museum, accompanied by a lecture at the State Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2003), an exhibition of prints at Kulturalcentrum BüZ, Minden, Germany (April 2004) and San Francisco (2004). In 2010 Held curated, Greetings from Daddaland: Fluxus, Mail Art and Rubber Stamps (Stendhal Gallery, New York City); American Artistamps (Seoul, South Korea); Debris from the Cultural Underground (Ever Gold, San Francisco); and BMC to DiY (Black Mountain College Museum (Asheville, North Carolina). A 2011 exhibition, Beat by the Bay, curated at Ever Gold, San Francisco, featured period works by Jess, Wally Hedrick, Fred Martin, Joan Brown and others. In 2013, Held co-curated the exhibition, ”Gutai: Historical Survey and Contemporary Response,” at the San Francisco Art Institute.

During 2014, Held was included in the MoMA, New York, exhibition, “Analog Network;” curated exhibitions in San Francisco and Phoenix; lectured at New York University; traveled to Japan and Italy; published significant essays on Japanese and Latin American Mail Art; and interviewed poet and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 2015, he returned to Japan to exhibit the results of his 2014 Venice, Italy, residency, and published the book, Small Scale Subversion: Mail Art and Artistamps (TAM Publications, the Netherlands).