“Make room for Ray Johnson whose place in history has been only vaguely defined. Johnson‘s beguiling, challenging art has an exquisite clarity and emotional intensity that makes it much more than simply a remarkable mirror of its time, although it is that, too.”
–Roberta Smith, The New York Times (1995)
(Eu am amintit pe blog despre omul ăsta dar n-am apucat să pun mai multe imagini și informații despre/de el, figură Pop Art din anii ’50, pionier mail art, conceptualist, și om care lucra la fel de bine cu imaginile și cuvintele, pe acestea din urmă tratându-le de fapt ca imagini, mi se pare mie. Pus în umbră de Warhol care mie nu-mi place mai deloc fiindcă îmi pare o imagine în spatele căreia nu e nimic. Interviurile cu Warhol în care acesta chiar încerca din greu să lege două vorbe sunt mari enigme. Pesemne conceptualism existențial-ist, sau nu am eu suficiente informații, blank-blank, etc.)
On January 13, 1995, Johnson was seen dressed in black diving off a bridge in Sag Harbor, Long Island and backstroking out to sea. Many aspects of his death involved the number “13”: the date, his age, 67 (6+7=13), as well as the room number of a motel he had checked into earlier that day, 247 (2+4+7=13). There was much speculation amongst critics, scholars, admirers, and law-enforcement officials about a “last performance” aspect of Johnson’s drowning. After his death, hundreds of collages were found carefully arranged in his Long Island home. (source)
By 1953, he began to make collages, which soon became the precursors of pop art, incorporating cigarette logos, images from fan magazines. He coined a phrase for them – “moticos” – and carried them around New York, showing them to strangers in public places and asking for their reactions and recording them (most of this work has been destroyed or recycled).
Then, he began mailing collages to friends and strangers, arranging the first informal happenings. He met and made friends with Andy Warhol, participated in performance art events (1957-1963), staging events, which he called “Nothings.”
His first known piece of mail directing a recipient to “please send to…” dates from 1958. The mail art became more systematic with the foundation of the “New York Correspondence School,” increasingly using the US mail for his wittily typed and hand lettered cryptic texts and drawings. (…)
Remarking about himself and the book, Johnson said:
I’m an artist and a, well, I shouldn’t call myself a poet but other people have. What I do is classify the words as poetry. …The Paper Snake… is all my writings, rubbings, plays, things that I had given to the publisher, Dick Higgins, editor and publisher, which I mailed to him or brought to him in cardboard boxes or shoved under his door, or left in his sink, or whatever, over a period of years. He saved all these things, designed and published a book, and I simply as an artist did what I did without classification. So when the book appeared the book stated, ‘Ray Johnson is a poet,’ but I never said, ‘this is a poem,’ I simply wrote what I wrote and it later became classified.
DEAR RAY JOHNSON NOTHING, NOTHING LOVES YOU BACK.