1927-1995 Avant-garde American artist whose primary artforms were collage, mail art and Performance Art
In the early 60's he began sending his collage work to an ever increasing circle of friends. A reaction to the politcally charged gallery/critic/museum model of fineart, mail art sought to avoid this authoritarian structure and send art directly from one artist to another, cutting out the 'middle men'. Ray tirelessly promoted the idea. In this effort, he created the New York Correspondence School which consisted of an ever changing list of friends and celebrities. He would send a piece of mail art to one person with instructions to "add to and pass on". Usually to another member of the Correspondence School. Today there are millions of mail artists all over the world.
He renamed the collages "moticos". These would include his own drawings, items he cut out of newspapers and magazines, quotations, etc. He liked to cut up old work to put it into new pieces he was working on. His work also included a great deal of satirical humor. In the early 60's, long before Warhol, Ray was using the images of Popular Icons like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in his artwork. This work could be thought of as the first Pop Art. It happens that he was good friends with Andy Warhol during this period.
From 1945 to 1948 he attended Black Mountain College on and off. During this time he took courses from Josef Albers. He met John Cage at Black Mountain College and remained friends with him after they all moved to New York. He traveled in the circles of the New York art scene at the time occasionally working in Performance Art.
When Andy was shot, he moved out of Manhattan to rural Locust Valley, NY. where he lived out his life
Friends with Moroton Subotnik, Chuck Close, Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Cornell among hundreds of others.
His work is in the permanent collections of:
Held, Jr., John, "MAIL ART: An Annotated Bibliography", The Scarecrow Press, London, 1991.
Welch, Chuck, "Eternal Network : A Mail Art Anthology", University of Calgary Press, Calgary, 1995
De Salvo, Donna and Gudis, Catherine (Editors), "Ray Johnson: Correspodences", Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 1999.
Burch, Charlton (ed.): The Ray Johnson Issue, Lightworks, No. 22, 1995-2000
Last Updated 07.22.03