A widely connected pioneer of Pop and mail art, Ray Johnson (1927–1995) was described as “New York’s most famous unknown artist.” Best known for his multimedia collages, he stopped exhibiting in 1991, but his output did not diminish. In 1992–1994, he used 137 disposable cameras to create a large body of work that is coming to light only now. Staging his collages in settings near his home in Locust Valley, Long Island—parking lots, sidewalks, beaches, cemeteries—he made photographs that pull the world of everyday “real life” into his art. In his “new career as a photographer,” Johnson began making collages in a new, larger format that made them more effective players in his camera tableaux. The vast archive he left behind at his death included over three thousand of the late photographs. Now, his final project makes its debut alongside earlier photo-based collages and works of mail art: fruits of a romance with the camera that spans the four decades of the artist’s career.
PLEASE SEND TO REAL LIFE: Ray Johnson Photographs is made possible by Ronay and Richard L. Menschel and the J. W. Kieckhefer Foundation, with support from the Young Fellows of the Morgan Library & Museum.