July 1st, 2004

pinhole camera


I've now seen How to Draw a Bunny twice and both times I came away in a vortex of inspiration. Ray Johnson is a great artist, considered an artist's artist. He doesn't make it big like Andy Warhol but he has similar graphic strengths. Ray has more Buddhism than Andy, although Andy seems to have some too, a floating quality. Floating inside and outside a social scene at the same time, finding inner direction that overflows from them into artworks. Ray's spirit is more steeped in nature, especially water.

Ray and Andy both had extensive and overlapping social ties and were friends. The film is about friendships and how Ray's art weaves friends, celebrity, and anonymity together. The anonymity flows when Ray sends mail art into the network. Everyone in Mail Art knows Ray but Ray doesn't know everyone, and his play in the network is a generous distribution of his art which fuels other artists' generousity. Freely giving art away is the consistent underlying premise of the Mail Art Network. If it wasn't for Ray I would not make paintings for Raimondo del Prete in Italy or Ryosuke Cohen in Japan or Anna Banana in Canada and they wouldn't make art for me.

Seeing footage of Ray's performances is moving. He uses a poetic humor that leaves you thinking about the performance, bringing your own creativity into the meanings evoked by the conceptual art. "Nothings" he calls them and they are like strange small instances that you see in everyday life that stick in your mind. Ray's ability to concentrate the energy of chance with the energy of creative expression is genius. His graphic works also have a dynamic quality that comes from many symbols and changes layered in the collages, especially in the portrait series. The best insights in the film are the patterns of Ray's interacting with his portrait subjects, especially on the theme of trading money for the art. Ray's extended letter negotiations are interactive performances that all the portrait subjects seem to understand as part of the process. Thus Ray's graphic work has the addition of a conversation in letters associated with the transfer of art. I've seen these letters in the Museum of Modern art library and they are silly and fun, yet poetic and moving.

If you are a mail artist, you will immediately head for your art supplies and envelopes after seeing this film.
pinhole camera

garbage bags d'art

2 more garbage bags to the the dumpster, but I found a lot in this layer to keep. Too bad. My neighbor Gino walked by and said, "You're getting rid of art? I have blank walls!" and he took some nekkid lady life drawings from the stack. I'm going to make some Ray Johnson Moticos from some of the savers. Off to dinner.