Ray Johnson: A Memorial Exhibition

April 27 - June 16, 1995

Photograph by Jack Mitchell, 1968

For Ray

For over fifteen years, off and on, since Richard Feigen introduced me to Ray Johnson we have periodically tried to organize a Ray Johnson exhibition for here, for Chicago, for anywhere. Somehow something, usually Ray, made it impossible. He seemed to want a show, he would send emissaries, I would get excited, then he would withdraw or somehow make it too difficult. I wrote to Ray, he sent me things, I kept on hoping. The Ray Johnson Show idea would ebb and flow. On January 6, 1995 Ray called me and said: “Well, I think you’ll really be able to do your show now, Frances.” I was very surprised, excited, and knowing Ray, suspicious at his seeming enthusiasm. I said “Nothing would please me more Ray, you know how important I think the work is.” I did feel like this was possibly the beginning of the show. Then Ray said ‘Yes, I’m finished with the nothings which I have been doing for years and I think I’m going to do,’ he laughed, “something”. We talked a bit more and hung up. Ten days later he swam out to sea.

I cannot help thinking that Ray, if he had thought about it, knew that if he died, we would certainly do a show. I have tried hard to do a show which he would have liked, I would have preferred to still be doing a dance with him. This is a modest memorial to a great artist. I hope it gives those who didn’t know Ray a small idea of how much and why he will be missed. If you knew him it is clear to you.

Excerpt by Frances Beatty as published in the exhibition pamphlet.

Location

Richard L. Feigen & Co.
New York, NY