artist / participant


press release

This exhibition proposes an interpretation of the different forms of dialogue with the material of the work, with the art world and the possibility of creating an anonymous circuit of distribution and feedback in the work of the American artist Ray Johnson (1927–1995). As little-known as he is fascinating, Johnson is a key element for the understanding of an epoch and a way of approaching the relationship of the artist with the artistic community of New York, the city where he created his work for more than forty years.

Johnson's work investigated the complex communicative processes that arise when an image is altered, and explored how these generate bureaucratic systems within culture. He created a new economy of messages in the whole body of his work, a very personal and ambitious form of concrete poetry. Even before the Pop art movement, Johnson's work evidenced a fascinating anthropological dimension that dealt with his perception of the society of distribution and consumption, as well as shrewd references of the question of sexual orientation in the culture of that time.

His collages, drawings and multiple forms of mail art were conceived as inserts, commentaries in which his personal imagination, popular culture and his view of the art world were combined to give body to a complex network of meanings. The supports he used and the way he manipulated them, stubbornly and constantly, created the sensation that whoever took part was an outsider, somebody who did not belong to the artistic community, who could not be called a 'professional' artist, but was an amateur. Johnson mimicked himself and mimicked his work with the hand of one who looks in from the outside, but observes with curiosity what happens 'within' the circle.

Curator: Alex Sainsbury in collaboration with Chus Martínez

Ray Johnson
Kuratoren: Alex Sainsbury, Chus Martinez