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Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1947-2013 | Digitized Collection

John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1947-2013

Biographical Note

John Held, Jr. (born 1947) of San Francisco, California, is a rubberstamp and artistamp artist, participant in the international mail art network, activist, performance artist, collector of mail art, and a fine arts librarian.
Jonathan Held was born on April 2, 1947. In the mid-1970s he took the name of the early twentieth century illustrator, John Held, Jr., famous for his images of "flapper girls" in the 1920s. This name change was both in tribute to the older artist as well as an expression of Dada.
Earning a Bachelor's Degree in 1969, Held received a Master of Library Science Degree from Syracuse University School of Information Studies in 1972 and expanded his interests toward participating in the international mail art network and assembling one of the largest archives of mail art in the United States. He was mentored by mail artist Ray Johnson, and Jean Brown, a leading participant in Fluxus, and whose interest in the Dada and Surrealism movements promoted emerging art forms including mail art, visual poetry, and artists' books.
From 1981 to 1995, Held was a Fine Arts Librarian at the Dallas Public Library. In 1982, he began making artistamps, pseudo-postage stamps used as an art medium, and opened the Modern Realism Gallery and Archive in Dallas, Texas, with his future wife Paula Barber. The gallery sought to preserve the record of contemporary avant-garde cultural activity.
Held published Mail Art: An Annotated Bibliography, a five-hundred page listing of secondary sources on the field in 1991. In 1996, Held moved to San Francisco, California, where he established the Modern Realism Gallery and acted as curator of the Stamp Art Gallery, an exhibition space devoted to rubberstamp and artistamp works.
John Held, Jr. has lectured at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Havana; and at the National School of Art, Prague. He participated in international exhibitions and, since 1986, engaged in international performance work, appearing in Japan, Russia, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia, as well as in the United States. One of Held's more notable performance creations is the Fake Picabia Brothers, in partnership with artist Picasso Gaglione.
John Held, Jr. lives in San Francisco, California.