YEAH …BUT IS IT ART?…..
Ray Johnson will be rolling in his grave next week when the MACBA presents a retrospective on the ART World’s most famously unknown artist: RAY JOHNSON
I came across his work 6 months ago when reading The Accidental Masterpiece: On The Art Of Life And Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman, a book written about the most staggering geniuses the world never knew.
Ray Johnson was the first to revel in POP ART. The original Andy Warhol, he manipulated his public image as an artist/celebrity, no one really ever knew the man behind the artist. The fact that he died with 400,000 in a bank account when most people thought he didn’t have a dime, is a true tesitimony to his secrecy. He increasingly became hell-bent on blurring the line between what could be considered art. The ANTI ARTIST, his specialty was mind games, puzzles and clues.
One of my favorite Johnson anecdotes is the one where a bargin-hunting art collector offered him 1/4 of the price of the canvas. Johnson then took his check and cut out 1/4 of the canvas.
The grandfather of mashup and sampling, he became interested in MAIL ART, a project in which he would mail unfinished pieces of his art to other famous people, friends, and strangers with the simple instructions to: “Please ADD to and RETURN”.
His Final OPUS was an art performance he called NOTHINGS inspired by the number 13. On a cold winter’s day he checked into a hotel, room 247 (2+4+7=13) to be exact. He then drove up the highway to the bridge where he completed his final work by jumping off a bridge into the freezing waters of Sag Harbour in New York on JAN 13th the day of his birthday. No coincidence then that he was found dead at age 67 (6+7=13).
The exhibit in Barcelona curated by Alex Sainsbury in collaboration with Chus Martinez is simply called: “Ray Johnson. Please Add to & Return” and opens at the MACBA on November6th. This retrospective of Johnson’s collages and mailings will mark the first time that an exhibition dedicated to the artist will take place in Spain.
The exhibitions Ray Johnson: Please Add to & Return and John Cage and Experimental Art: The Anarchy of Silence will be simultaneously on view at the MACBA, affording an opportunity to explore the relations between the work of both artists. Ray Johnson, frequent reference is made to the figure and work of John Cage. His work reflects an in-depth interest in the idea of chance applied to the artistic approach developed by Cage.