Ray Johnson was an artist from Detroit who spent his life living as a Bohemian artist in downtown New York for the latter half of the 20th Century. The movie starts out with his drowning death in 1995 under somewhat mysterious circumstances and begins to delve into the life of an artist seen by his many friends and acquaintances as an enigma. Johnson was an avid maker of collages and mail art enthusiast. Throughout the film, many of his artist friends and contemporaries are interviewed and many, such as Close, Christo and Jean Claude, Liechtenstein, and Rosenquist who had attained a high degree of artistic success reflect fondly upon Johnson and his antics.
Interesting tidbits: Johnson did a performance where he dropped 60 foot long hotdog from a helicopter on Long Island and billed it to dealer Richard Feigen.
Geek tidbits: When Chuck Close was asked to curate a show of portraiture at MOMA, he wanted to include a work by Johnson however the works needed to be from the MOMA collection and MOMA only had one work. Johnson determined that anything sent to the library was kept and became part of the permanent collection so he inundated the MOMA libraray with mail art and Close was then able to select a bunny head portrait of “Bill” De Kooning for his show.
Art Geek Factor:7 out of 10 Stars
Artistic Accuracy: 7 out of 10 Stars
Overall Movie: 7 out of 10 Stars
Summary: This is an interesting movie which deals both with insider and outsider art. It looks at the inner workings of a vibrant artistic community while indirectly addressing the subtle difference between fame and notoriety. Johnson was an interesting artist, however it is within the context of his peer group that he really shines.
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