The art of Ray Johnson (American, 1927–1995) was rooted in his prolific correspondence. Throughout his life, he mailed a tremendous number of collages, drawings, and printed matter to friends and colleagues. Among the recipients were several staff members at The Museum of Modern Art, most notably the curator Dorothy Miller, who received Johnson’s mailings from the mid-1950s on, and the library director Clive Phillpot, who corresponded with Johnson in the 1980s and 1990s. This exhibition focuses on Johnson’s early printed materials, especially his self-promotional flyers and booklets for his work as a designer and illustrator in the 1950s and early 1960s. These were some of the first things Johnson sent to the Museum, and they contain the hand-lettering and complex wordplay that were recognizable aspects of his style throughout his artistic career. In addition to the flyers, the exhibition includes examples of Johnson’s print designs, including covers for books and records as well as contributions to fashion magazines. These works also reveal elements of Johnson’s biography, such as his friendship with Andy Warhol, who provided Johnson with introductions for commercial design work. Other materials, such as the flyers for the Living Theater (an experimental theater in New York City), are artifacts of Johnson’s participation in a downtown scene that was teeming with new energy and ideas from visual artists, musicians, dancers, and poets. These self-published flyers were first circulated within that scene and are an early example of Johnson’s unconventional methods of distributing his work. This exhibition is organized by David Senior, Bibliographer, MoMA Library. Materials were assembled from the MoMA Library Collection. Several items have been loaned from the MoMA Archives´ Dorothy C. Miller Papers. The Ray Johnson Estate has also generously loaned materials to the exhibition.
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