I recently jumped into the world of Ray Johnson by watching the fascinating account of his enigmatic persona in the documentary film " How to Draw a Bunny". I 've always known that Ray was the Founding Father of mail art. But I never knew about the details of his life-as-art, as-collage, as-mail-art approach to seamlessly melding himself with his art!
The film is composed of interviews with the many, many art world luminaries and others who sorta knew Ray.Each story they tell, adds a piece to the puzzle of Ray Johnson's life story. We learn about his studies at Black Mountain College, his Correspondence Art, his activities with Fluxus staging Nothings and in the world of POP art/artsts like Andy Warhol.
Wow. And then there is the story about his death by suicide which reveals a lot of synchronicity- planned or unplanned? We will wonder.
I also never really knew how prolific an artist he was. He definitely subscribed to the collage-a-day protocol, or even more than a collage a day! He was so prolific that his art cross references himself & appropriates imagery from other artists and carefully memorializes artists with his numerous profile collages. We learn that his videographer, Nick Maravell, filmed Ray for three entire years. I imagine Ray saw everything he did for Nick, as performance art.
I especially loved learning about Ray's idea of mail art as a " message in a bottle" condensed to fit into an envelope allowing the flow of his imagination to enter other people's lives through the mail. Through Mail Art he created what he called "rapport" with a great number of people, connecting the dots in his life through these strange mailed collages and visual mail messages.
I recommend " How to Draw a Bunny", even if learning about Ray Johnson leads to knowing about his sad demise.
It gave me a lot to reflect upon, about the process of being a mail artist in a world where sending mail through USPS is really so unnecessary. What is this impulse to correspond?