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Xerox art (sometimes, more generically, called electrostatic art , copy art, or xerography) is created by putting objects on the glass, or platen, of a copying machine and by pressing "start" to produce an image. If the object is not flat, or the cover does not totally cover the object, the image is distorted in some way. The curvature of the object, the amount of light that reaches the image surface, and the distance of the cover from the glass, all affect the final image. Often, with proper manipulation, rather ghostly images can be made. Placing three-dimensional objects on the image area of the platen is often called "direct imaging" and is a method of experimental photography.
Xerox art appeared shortly after the first Xerox copying machines were made. It is often used in mail art and book art. Publishing collaborative mail art in small editions of Xerox art and mailable book art was the purpose of I.S.C.A. (International Society of Copier Artists) founded by Louise Odes Neaderland.
Throughout the evolvement of copy art San Francisco and Rochester are mentioned frequently. Rochester was known as the Imaging Capital of the World with Eastman Kodak and Xerox, while many artists with innovative ideas created cutting edge works in San Francisco. Alongside the computer boom a copy art explosion was taking place. Copy shops were springing up all over San Francisco, access to copiers made it possible to create inexpensive art of unique imagery. Multiple prints of assemblage and collage meant artists could share work more freely. Print on demand meant making books and magazines at the corner copy shop without censorship and with only a small outlay of funds. Comic book artists could quickly use parts of their work over and over.
Recognition of the art form
Marilyn McCray curated the Electroworks Exhibit held at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in 1980. On view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum were more than 250 examples of prints, limited-edition books, graphics, animation, textiles, and 3-D pieces produced by artists and designers.
San Francisco had an active Xerox arts scene that started in 1978 with the international Copy Art Exhibition, curated and organized by Ginny Lloyd, held at LaMamelle gallery. The exhibition traveled to San Jose, CA and Japan. Lloyd also made the first copy art billboard (the first of three) with a grant from Eyes and Ears Foundation. A gallery named Electroarts moved into the Beat poet area of North Beach. It shared space in part with Postcard Palace where several copy artists sold postcard editions. It also housed a Xerox 6500. At around the same time calendars produced in multiple editions made by Barbara Cushman sold at her store and gallery, A Fine Hand.
In May 1987, artist and curator George Muhleck wrote in Stuttgart about the international exhibition "Medium: Photocopie" that it inquired into "new artistic ways of handling photocopy." The book which accompanied the exhibition was sponsored mainly by the Goethe Institut of Montreal, with additional support from the Ministere des Affaires Culturelles du Quebec.
The complete collection of International Society of Copier Artist Quarterlies is now housed at the Jaffe Book Arts Collection of the Special Collections of the Wimberly Library at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. The collection began in 1989 with several volumes donated by the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, now called the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Jaffe hosted an exhibition in 2010 of copy art by Ginny Lloyd, showcasing her works and collection. She lectures and teaches workshops at the Jaffe on copy art history and techniques, previously taught in 1981 at Academie Aki, Other Books and So Archive, and Jan Van Eyck Academie in The Netherlands; Image Resource Center in Cleveland.
The first artists recognized to make copy art are Charles Arnold, Jr. and Wallace Berman. Charles Arnold, Jr. an instructor at Rochester Institute of Technology, made the first photocopies with artistic intent in 1961 using a large Xerox camera on an experimental basis. Wallace, called the "father" of assemblage art, would use a Verifax photocopy machine (Kodak) to make copies of the images which he would often juxtapose in a grid format. Berman was influenced by his San Francisco Beat circle, and by Surrealism, Dada, and the Kabbalah. Sonia Landy Sheridan began teaching the first course in the use of copiers at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1970.
The fact that copy artists depend upon the same machines does not mean that they share a common style or aesthetic. Artists as various as Ian Burn (a conceptual/process artist who made "Xerox Book" in 1968), Laurie Rae Chamberlain (a punk-inspired colour Xeroxer exhibiting in the mid 1970s) and Helen Chadwick (a feminist artist using her own body as subject matter in the 1980s) have employed photocopiers for very different purposes. Other artists who have made significant use of the machines include: Tim Head, Ginny Lloyd, Sonia Sheridan, Tom Norton, David Hockney, Russell Mills, Carol Key, Sarah Willis, Graham Harwood, Alison Marchant and the Copyart Collective of Camden. Manufacturers of the machines are an obvious source of funding for artistic experimentation with copiers and such companies as Rank Xerox, Canon and Selex have been willing to lend machines, sponsor shows and pay for artists-in-residence programs.
Copiers add to the arts, as can be seen by surrealist Jan Hathaway's combining color xerography with other media, Carol Heifetz Neiman's layering prismacolor pencil through successive runs of a color photocopy process (1988-1990), or R.L. Gibson's use of large scale xerography such as in Psychomachia (2010).
- Lloyd, Ginny. " 5 Cents a Page." Women Artists News 7 (6):11-12 (Summer 1982).
- Lloyd, Ginny. "Copy Art: Europe and San Francisco." Art Com Magazine 4 (4): 39-40 (Spring 1982)
- McCray, Marilyn, ed. Electroworks. Rochester, New York: International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1979. ISBN pbk, 0-935398-00-7 clthbd, 0-935398-01-5.
- Lloyd, Ginny, ed. Copy Art Exhibition. San Francisco: The Carbon Alternative, 1980.
- Charbonneau, Jacques, ed. L'ere du Copie Art. Montreal, Canada. 1981
- Belleti, Fabio, ed, PostMachina. Bologna, Italy. 1984
- Les artistes et les auteurs. Medium: Photocopie (1987 ed.). ISBN 2-89314-094-7.
- Thomoson, John. Tribune, September 22, 2010. ″The Carbon Alternative Exhibition″, Miami,FL.
- Lloyd, Ginny. Umbrella Magazine. Vol 5, #1. ″The Mail Art Community in Europe.″ Los Angeles, CA.
- Brunet-Weinmann, Monique. Copigraphie: Éléments pour une histoire globale / Copigraphy: Elements for a global history. Les produits logiques LopLop (CD-ROM), éditeur, Montréal, 2000.
- Firpo, Patrick ; Alexander, Lester ; Katayanagi, Claudia; Ditlea, Steve. Copy Art: The First Complete Guide to the Copy Machine. New York: Richard Marek Publishers, 1978. ISBN 978-0-399-90016-7. OOP
- Walker, John A. Copy This! A Historical Perspective On the Use of the Photocopier in Art. Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library. 2006
- Copy Art Bibliography compiled by Reed Altemus for Leonardo/ISAST
-  Jaffe Center for the Book Arts Carbon Alternative exhibit
- Creative Photocopying (1997), Walton, S. and Walton, S. Aurum Press. ISBN 1-85410-476-4.
- Lloyd, Ginny. Let's Make Copy Art On-Your-Own. Jupiter, FL. TropiChaCha Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-9836070-8-3