Please join us for a special SCA member program highlighting the recent publication, Ray Johnson ℅, a reader and portable archive produced in conjunction with the forthcoming exhibition of the same name, organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. The catalogue’s designer Irma Boom will be joined in conversation with the exhibition’s curators, Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Jordan Carter, associate curator, Modern and Contemporary Art.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995) was a renowned maker of meticulous collages whose works influenced movements including Pop Art, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art. Emerging from the interdisciplinary community of artists and poets at Black Mountain College, Johnson was extraordinarily adept at using social interaction as an artistic endeavor and founded a mail art network known as the New York Correspondence School.
Drawing on the vast collection of Johnson’s work at the Art Institute of Chicago, this volume gives new shape to our understanding of his artistic practice and features hundreds of pieces that include artist’s books, collages, drawings, mail art, and performance documentation. In keeping with Johnson’s democratic, rhizomatic, and anti-hierarchical ethos, this indispensable resource on the artist’s oeuvre contains 700 illustrations, many of them never before published, and twenty-one short essays by various contributors that allow readers to dip into and out of the book in a nonlinear manner.
About the Exhibition:
Johnson was immortalized in 1965 as “New York’s most famous unknown artist.” But what are we to make of this powerfully elusive figure today? The 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).
The most exhaustive exhibition of the artist’s work in more than two decades, Ray Johnson ℅ is curated by Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, with Jordan Carter, associate curator, Modern and Contemporary Art. A companion project, ℅ Tender Buttons, organized by Jennifer Cohen, assistant research curator, will be presented in tandem with the exhibition at the Art Institute. Partial exhibition funding is provided by Kathy and Chuck Harper.
This program is sponsored by Christie’s.