Close-up photo of Elvis Presley's face in near profile is overlaid with streaks of red, especially pouring from his eye, and a grid of irregular red squares in the lower left quadrant.
Ray Johnson c/o

Benefactor and Patron Tour and Luncheon

Tour & Luncheon

Please join us for this intimate member event in recognition of the special commitment and generosity of our Patron and Benefactor members which provides an opportunity for our Board to thank you for your extraordinary support. Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator and Jordan Carter, associate curator, will lead tours through the exhibition, Ray Johnson c/o.

Luncheon sponsored by

“New York’s most famous unknown artist”—this was the moniker given to Ray Johnson in 1965. More than 50 years later, he is equally remembered for his meticulous collages, his foundational role in the development of mail art, and his early proximity to movements such as Pop, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art. But what are we to make of this powerfully elusive figure? 

This exhibition, Ray Johnson ℅, is guided by the belief that this fugitive and ever-evolving artist comes into view most clearly when seen against the backdrop of his collaborations. The featured works are drawn almost exclusively from the Art Institute’s recently acquired William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson—the original archives of the international mail art network known as the New York Correspondence School (NYCS). Underscoring collaborative authorship as Johnson’s most consistent means of self-reinvention, this exhibition is the first to offer a comparative assessment of his significant interactions with friends and correspondents such as archivist Bill Wilson (1932–2016), publisher Dick Higgins (1938–1998), computer scientist Toby Spiselman (1934–2018), as well as artists Karl Wirsum (b. 1939), and Robert Warner (b. 1956). 

Ray Johnson. Oedipus (Elvis Presley #1), 1956–58. Promised gift of The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson.