Illustrated Letters from Psychedelic Artist Warren Dayton, 1959 - 61
[Seattle]: 1959-61. 18 letters of varying sizes and formats -- several 4-panel cards of which one panel is devoted to the address, several cards in envelopes, one postcard -- plus one card and envelope that appears to be Dayton's work but is signed "Ralph". Most written and illustrated using pen and ink, several with added touches of color. Occasional minor wear, tears to envelope flaps from opening. Very Good.
A collection of early mail art sent from Warren Dayton in Seattle to Jack Smith, a friend in Ellensberg. Dayton (1940 - ) was a struggling young artist at the time; he would later gain renown for his poster art during the psychedelic era, and is credited with pioneering the use of t-shirts as an art medium.
The letters are post-dated July 2, 1959 to May 8, 1961 and chart in often humorous fashion the series of odd jobs Dayton had during these years, from driving an ice cream scooter to being a licensed inspector for the city and carrying bricks for a bricklayer. They also include plans for his upcoming wedding (Jack is to be the best man), paintings and artwork he's done, and his efforts to get a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute for the Arts), which are ultimately successful; Dayton moved to Los Angeles in 1961, which may explain why the letters stop.
Throughout, the artwork of the letters demonstrates a talented artist experimenting with different styles, in particular the elaborate, distorted lettering and non-traditional and/or gritty cartoon characters that would become hallmarks of the psychedelic era. Many of the letters are filled edge to edge with varying types of lettering and cartoon creatures, a few bear stylistic features of Victorian art, etc. To call these proto-psychedelic is perhaps a stretch, but it is certainly possible to trace some of the cultural influences that informed that era here.
In total, a nice mail art collection of Dayton's early work, showing his development as an artist and providing hints of the aesthetic for which he would become known.