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Ray Johnson (1927-1995) was a seminal Pop Art figure in the 1950s, an early conceptualist, and a pioneer of mail art. His preferred medium was collage, that quintessentially twentieth-century art form that reflects the increased (as the century wore on) collision of disparate visual and verbal information that bombards modern man. Integrating texts and images drawn from a multiplicity of sources — from mass media to telephone conversations — Johnson’s innovativeness spread beyond the confines of the purely visual. He staged what Suzi Gablik described in Pop Art Redefined as perhaps the “first informal happening” and moved into mail art, artist books, graphic design, and sculpture, working in all modes simultaneously. Johnson not only operated in what Rauschenberg famously called “the gap between art and life,” but he also erased the distinction between them. His entire being – a reflection of his obsessively creative mind – was actually one continuous “work of art.” His works reflect his encyclopedic erudition, his promiscuous range of interests, and an uncanny proto-Google ability to discover connections between a myriad of images, facts and people.
“George Brecht Knows. George Brecht’s Nose.”