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A Travelogue of Imaginary Lands in Stamps

A Travelogue of Imaginary Lands in Stamps

A Travelogue of Imaginary Lands in Stamps

Donald Evans, “Nadorp, 1953. Windmills” (1977), watercolor and rubberstamp on paper (all photographs courtesy Property of Donald Evans and Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

Greater than a decade has handed since Donald Evans (1945-1977) has had a solo exhibition in New York. The timing appears proper for his present present, not as a result of his work suits in with the newest section of our obsession with materialist extra and escapist fantasies, however as a result of it provides such a compelling counterpoint. This has all the time been true of Evans’s artworks, that are basically watercolors on a bit of paper mimicking a postage stamp, and concerning the top and width of a thumbprint. In the course of the six years that he made artwork, from 1971 to ’77, he concentrated all of his consideration on the postage stamp — a reasonable, disposable object — unlocking its potential to evoke distant, unseen lands. Though he solely made artwork for a quick time, his oeuvre consists of greater than 4000 fake stamps issued by the 42 international locations he dreamed up.

Evans started portray stamps of imaginary international locations when he was a baby. He stopped when he was an adolescent and didn’t start once more till two years after he received a BA in structure from Cornell College in 1969. In 1977, on the age of 31, he died when the constructing the place he was dwelling in Amsterdam caught fireplace. 

Donald Evans, “Antiqua, 1954. Tartans (MacLeod)” (1974), watercolor on paper

In line with his Wikipedia entry, “Evans normally traced every stamp design in pencil, then accomplished it with a No. 2 Grumbacher paintbrush, watercolor, and pen and ink. To simulate stamp perforations, Evans pounded out a collection of intervals on an previous typewriter.” To additional counsel the actual factor, in addition to add a notice of authenticity to the work, he carved rubber erasers in order that he might “postmark” or “cancel” them. Every nation had its personal set of cancellation marks. 

Evans’s admirers have included Italo Calvino, Bruce Chatwin, and Takashi Hiraide, all of whom explored actual and imagined locations. I keep in mind questioning what Raymond Roussel, who wrote “La Supply,” an extended poem about strolling right into a panorama he sees on the label of a bottle of mineral water, would have product of Evans’s stamps. Like Joseph Cornell, Evans created total worlds, however with even barer means. He might carry all of the artwork provides he wanted, and even a whole exhibition of his work, beneath one arm. 

In 1975 he instructed the Paris Evaluate:

It was vicarious travelling for me to a made-up world that I appreciated higher than the one I used to be in. I’m doing that now too. No catastrophes happen. There aren’t any generals or battles or warplanes on my stamps. The international locations are harmless, peaceable, composed. Generally I get so concentrated in these worlds I get confused … it’s onerous to get out. 

Donald Evans, “Nadorp, 1965. Mushrooms” (1972), watercolor and rubber stamp on paper

Donald Evans: Philatelic Counter at Tibor de Nagy (April 30–June 4, 2022) will probably be a revelation for individuals who don’t know his work and want to immerse themselves in a magical, anti-heroic world that provides pleasure whereas rejecting bourgeois enthusiasm for operatic shows. For many who do know his work, seeing it once more will probably be like visiting an previous pal you didn’t know you missed as a lot as you probably did. 

The 28 works within the exhibition are fastidiously organized in customary black sleeves that stamp collectors use. Possessed with a protean creativeness, Evans’s stamps are a journal of his preoccupations, passions, pursuits, analysis, and friendships. Some are affixed to a memento postcard or a plain white envelope that he has addressed. Some are sheets of 36 stamps, all meticulously painted and punctiliously perforated. His stamps have both been used or are ready to hold a message. Working in a trompe l’oeil vein, the whole lot he did is dedicated to attaining an air of authenticity. The mauves and blues he employed in lots of his works evoke the ink used on late Nineteenth-century stamps. 

In “Domino, 1938, Dominoes” (1975), Evans’s meticulous devotion to creating what seems to be a sheet of 36 stamps picturing a domino is astonishing for its accuracy, tenderness, and vulnerability. Even the white border across the stamps is fastidiously attended to, with the title and date of problem “printed” on the underside proper edge. It’s the form of perfection now we have come to anticipate from an artist reminiscent of Vija Celmins. The distinction between Celmins and Evans is within the scale. Nevertheless, it’s mistaken to say that Evans is a miniaturist as a result of he’s working in a 1:1 relationship.

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Donald Evans, “Sabot, 1966. Edible mushrooms” (1973), watercolor and rubber stamp on paper

Evans didn’t simply paint stamps. Every of the international locations or settlements that issued them had its personal flag, natural world, and set of customs, all of which he documented. Judging by what this exhibition consists of, he had a selected fondness for windmills, fruits, mushrooms, tartans, carpets, wildflowers, island and tropical landscapes, the writings of Gertrude Stein, a Chinese language supernatural story wherein ghosts worry human saliva. 

In “Sabot, 1966. Edible Mushrooms” (1973), Evans painted eight postmarked stamps, every depicting a distinct edible mushroom and assigned a distinct worth. He included the Latin identify. The inspiration for these stamps was seemingly Nineteenth-century hand-colored lithographs of mushrooms, probably primarily based on the drawings of the Scottish botanical artist Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892). What’s astonishing and simple about Evans’s mushrooms is the constancy to the supply picture he achieves whereas engaged on such a small scale. Take a look at the extent of element in his portraits and landscapes, the wit of copying the picture of a veiled girl on a classic postcard onto the stamp he has positioned within the higher left-hand nook of “Adujani, 1962, Veiled Adjudani girl” (1972) or the ingenuity of creating a map of imaginary tropical islands on a stamp issued by a rustic he made up. Completed earlier than the rise of Neo-Expressionism and the “return of portray” within the Eighties, his work provided a self-sustaining various to the hoopla accompanying many artists’ three-gallery exhibitions that had been all the trend through the Reagan presidency. He by no means claimed to be a genius. He didn’t must.

In “Stein, 1972. Fiftieth anniversary of ‘A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson’ by Gertrude Stein” (1972), Evans “postmarked” a sheet of 4 in a different way priced stamps, every of which cites a line from the textual content Stein devoted to Anderson in 1922. It’s telling that Evans selected to quote everything of “Let’s Describe,” the final part of the “Valentine,” which accommodates this line: “It was a really windy evening and among the bigger automobiles discovered it extra prudent to not enterprise.” Evans didn’t want a big automobile to make his work. The modesty of his supplies and the completely vital scale of his work quietly refutes the New York artwork world’s pleasure over materialism and fabrication, and the bigger-is-better aesthetic. No marvel none of its main museums have any of his work of their collections or, so far as I can inform, have ever included it in an exhibition. 

Donald Evans, “Stein, 1972. Fiftieth anniversary of ‘A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson’ by Gertrude Stein” (1972), watercolor and rubber stamp on paper

Donald Evans: Philatelic Counter continues at Tibor de Nagy gallery (11 Rivington Avenue, Decrease East Aspect, Manhattan) by way of June 4. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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