En Rapport focuses on a significant body of Johnson's collages that reference other artists, his peers and his friends. Ray Johnson positioned himself in relation to other artists and structured relationships with them more than any artist working from 1955 to 1995. The exhibition premiers an important group of works from the Estate never previously shown. A text by William S. Wilson is included in the catalogue.
A seminal figure in the Pop Art movement, Johnson was one of the earliest artists to use celebrities as subject matter. Johnson was introduced to the burgeoning American avant-garde at Black Mountain College in the late 1940's, where he studied painting with Josef and Anni Albers and worked alongside Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Richard Lippold, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. In 1948, he moved to New York and became active in the downtown art scene where he exchanged ideas with his neighbors, Cage and Cunningham, and acquaintances Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly. He met artists such as Max Ernst, Barnett Newman, Philip Guston, and Marcel Duchamp and learned about Modernism.
He interacted with George Brecht, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Öyvind Fahlström, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist to name only a few. Many of these artists were, like Johnson, marginal outsiders. Their fame, if it existed at all, was confined to the world of art makers and admirers.
Johnson would develop a rapport with an artist as he was working, and then would reveal that rapport in a collage, or in a series of collages. He encouraged interrelations in his prompting of anyone he met to become an artist or at least a 'correspondent' by participating in his ongoing postal-art exchanges. He used their name, their image, or fragments of some related subject matter in his works, sometimes designating them as "portraits". Johnson would create an entire network within a collage, not dissimilar to the network he connected with his correspondence practice. It is this network, this rapport, that the exhibition will reveal and present.