RAY JOHNSON: THE DOVER STREET YEARS, 1953 - 1960 at The Center for Curatorial Studies, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College
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It isn’t really necessary to see the moticos or know where it is because i have seen them. Perhaps i might point them out to you. The best way is to go about your business not thinking about silly moticos because when you begin seeing them describing what they are or where they are going is so just make sure you wake up from sleeping and go your way and go to sleep when you will. The moticos does that too and does not worry about you perhaps you are the moticos. – Ray Johnson, “What is a Moticos” Painter, collagist, graphic designer, correspondent, performer, collaborator, mail-art enthusiast – despite his multifaceted artistic endeavors and cult-status as the founder of the New York Correspondance School, in the seventeen years since his suicide in January 1995, Ray Johnson (American, 1927-1995) has become a name rather than a recognized influence. In comparison to his American contemporaries of comparable achievement, Johnson is still relatively unfamiliar to the American public, and more importantly insufficiently understood by those interested in modern art. RAY JOHNSON: THE DOVER STREET YEARS, 1953 – 1960 brings together nearly forty works created during the period he lived and worked at 2 Dover Street in Lower Manhattan. It is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on this period of his work. Moving to New York City in 1948 after attending Black Mountain College in North Carolina where he studied closely with Josef Albers, Johnson found himself at the epicenter of Abstract Expressionism’s core decade (1945-1955). Living and working in a neighborhood known as Coenties Slip, he found community among like-minded individuals such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Morton Feldman, Richard Lippold, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Ad Reinhardt, and many others. In conversation with these individuals, he began to turn away from traditional modernist models and explore alternatives through the physical manipulation of materials. Johnson’s work from this period offers profound and poignant insight contained on an intimate scale into avant-garde artistic production and aesthetic thought in the 1950s. Bringing together nearly 40 works, this exhibition traces Johnson’s career during the time he lived and worked at 2 Dover Street in Lower Manhattan, 1953-1960. Highlighted in the exhibition are examples of his graphic design work including dust jackets for New Directions, LP cover art, and window displays, and photographs by Ad Reinhardt and Elizabeth Novick of early moticos displayed outdoors. No exhibition to date has focused exclusively on this period of Ray Johnson’s work, many works in the exhibition have never been seen before. The exhibition is organized by Anastasia Rygle, Curator.