This drawing is by Angelo from the book Prisoners’ Inventions. It shows Angelo working on a makeshift table created from a stack of blankets.
If you have known me for a while, you probably know that in addition to administrating Public Collectors, I’m part of the group Temporary Services along with Brett Bloom. One of our better known projects is Prisoners’ Inventions, a collaboration with an artist named Angelo who was in prison at the time that we worked together.
A couple days after Christmas I checked my voice mail and learned that Angelo has died. I had just posted a drawing of Frankenstein by Angelo on the Public Collectors blog on December 24th. Other drawings by Angelo appear throughout the Public Collectors Tumblr, and he was included in the Public Collectors book published by Inventory Press.
This is a heavy and complicated loss. Angelo and I were friends for over 25 years. We met when he first wrote me a letter and sent me a drawing, after reading a copy of my old ‘zine Primary Concern that I had mailed to his cellmate. We became pen pals, and for decades I was one of his only links to the outside world. I had no template for how to have this kind of friendship; I just did it. He asked almost nothing of me. I stayed in contact with Angelo for the entirety of his remaining prison years and when he was released two years ago, I was able to finally meet him in person and then visit him a second time. I am saddened by this loss, but grateful for his many years of friendship.
Above is the first page from a three page list that Angelo sent me, detailing all of the books he read in prison in the year 2012. He loved lists! He'd make a list like this every year. You can see more of them here. While in prison, Angelo could only have six cubic feet of personal property. He collected inventories on paper in place of actual objects.
Here is more background about Angelo from the announcement that Temporary Services has sent out:
Saying goodbye to our friend Angelo
Temporary Services is sad to share that we have lost our longtime friend and collaborator Angelo. Angelo was found in his apartment outside of Los Angeles sometime around Christmas. The cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest. He had recently turned 73 years old.
Angelo made thousands of pages of drawings, sketches, and writings, but he is best remembered as the author of the book Prisoners’ Inventions, a collaboration with Temporary Services. Prisoners’ Inventions was first published by WhiteWalls in 2003, and presented as a larger exhibition in numerous venues since its first showing at MASS MoCA. Working with Angelo taught us just how irrelevant the distinction between art and other forms of creativity is. We learned that in prison you can cook a sandwich with metal furniture, light cigarettes with pieces of wire and paperclips jammed into electrical outlets, and communicate with others through the plumbing of a toilet. Angelo’s writings and drawings about the creativity he observed in prison collapsed the distinctions between art and everyday survival. He transformed our thinking in ways that have influenced everything we’ve done since.
Angelo spent over two decades in prison. He was released in late 2014. We finally gave Angelo a copy of his book Prisoners’ Inventions in person soon after his release. It was his first time seeing the finished book. He was never allowed to receive a copy during his incarceration because his own drawings showed how to make contraband objects.
After being released, Angelo was able to live a modest but comfortable life, thanks to a pension from a pre-incarceration job. He walked a lot and attended a reading program for recently released prisoners. One of the first things he did after getting out from prison was obtain a library card. He spent countless hours scouring the city for movies on DVD and VHS that he had been unable to watch while in prison. He viewed as many as seven films a day and kept an index card inventory of the thousands of titles he quickly amassed in his small apartment. He was a huge history buff and film adaptations of historical events were a favorite.
Angelo led a fairly solitary life after being released from prison, but he always sounded happy. Marc last spoke with Angelo on election night, just days before his 73rd birthday, and hours before the horrifying Presidential outcome became clear. Angelo was in great spirits—apologetic as always about never turning on his cell phone and being hard to get a hold of. He was more interested in talking about his favorite illustrators than the election.
It remains our intention to reprint Prisoners’ Inventions. It has been out of print for far too long, and Angelo generated several dozen pages of new invention drawings and writings since the last reprinting of the book. We are looking forward to sharing that material in the next edition.
We will forever be grateful for the experience of working with Angelo—even though our collaboration was mostly from afar and almost entirely through written correspondence. We will always be moved and inspired by what he was able to do with so little, and we will miss his kindness and generosity. Collaborators like Angelo are truly once in a lifetime.
— Temporary Services / Marc & Brett
Thank you for taking the time to read this remembrance. I will surely continue to post drawings and writings by Angelo on the Public Collectors Tumblr in the coming months. There is no shortage of material to share!
I'll send another Public Collectors newsletter soon about some other developments. In the meantime, like many of you, I'll be bracing for Inauguration Day. If you live in Chicago, I'll see you on the streets—in particular, the streets in front of Trump International Hotel & Tower. Take care of yourself and each other.
- Marc Fischer / Public Collectors