Artist on Film / How to Draw a Bunny: A Ray Johnson Portrait

Directed by John W. Walter, 2002, 90 mins

In the sixties Ray Johnson (1927–1995) inspired a group of artists to make images for distribution through the mail, eventually generating a vast international network. This became the Mail Art movement which counted many hundreds of participants, for whom Johnson was the ‘sugerdada’. Johnson was primarily a collagist and a forerunner of Pop Art. He constructed his art out of social interaction – both real and imagined – gathering celebrities, the art world, and friends into his work. Between 1965 and 1973, he made his collages for exhibitions in New York. But from the mid-seventies until his death in 1995, and despite invitations to make exhibitions from a number of major galleries, Johnson kept them mostly to himself. While every week he mailed out hundreds of annotated photocopies, his collages were secreted in his house in Long Island. Finally, overlooked by Manhattan's art world in the nineties but inundated by mail art requests, after announcing his best performance yet to most of the names in his phone book, on Friday 13 January 1995 Johnson swam into a freezing sea and drowned.

With an introduction by Alex Sainsbury, Founding Director of Raven Row

Image credit: 
Elvis #2, 1956-57, Collage, 27.3 x 19 cm, Collection Estate of William S. Wilson