Memorial Ray Johnson 2008

The HistoRAY Johnson Fan Club Meeting


"The HistoRAY Johnson Fan Club Meeting" An exhibition of seventeen rarely seen photographic portraits of the artist Ray Johnson will open simultaneously at the Mistretta Galleries in Locust Valley, New York and at Artpool Art Research Center (Artpool P60) in Budapest, Hungary on January 13, 2008. This dual international presentation will celebrate the image and correspondence art of Ray Johnson (1927-1995) on the thirteenth anniversary of his death by drowning.

The images were made in collaboration with the artist by photographers Joan Harrison and Michael E. Ach during a thirteen year period of friendship from 1981-1994 Six panels that replicate correspondence from Johnson, related directly or elliptically to the portraits, supplement these revealing photographs.

Ray Johnson, the world’s "most famous unknown artist", studied abstract painting at Black Mountain College with Josef Albers, and ultimately drew from Pop, Zen, Fluxus and celebrity culture to create divinely inspired collages, cosmic performances and correspondence art that created the International Mail Art Movement. He counted among his friends John Cage, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Joseph Cornell and Peter Beard as well as most every local artist and every art dealer within 100 miles of his home in Locust Valley on Long Island. His correspondence brought him additional friendships in Japan, Italy, Great Britain and especially Hungary, which he never visited, but where a vast archive of his correspondence resides at Artpool Art Research Center. He was honored by a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York and the Wexner Art Center in Ohio in 1999-2000.

Enigmatic, intense and fiercely social, Ray Johnson was known to all but profoundly understood by no one. Johnson swam out to sea in the frigid waters off Sag Harbor in his final, some say numerology-inspired, performance thirteen years ago this January 13th. The intent of “HistoRAY” is to re-engage the creative energy his friends and correspondents loved so much and to introduce him to a younger generation who are living his legacy of links and connection on the internet and in their daily lives.

The public is invited and encouraged to interact with the exhibition by sending a copy of Ray Johnson correspondence or an annotated invitation to Mistretta Galleries or by e-mailing the same to for posting on the web. Joan Harrison is a Professor of Art at the C.W Post Campus of Long Island University. Michael E. Ach is a Staff Photographer for Newsday. Their work has been widely published and exhibited.

HistoRAY | Meeting | Joan Harrison | Michael E. Ach | Ray Johnson