About the Archive

As of May 1, 2017 the Ray Johnson Estate is exclusively represented by Adler Beatty; Richard L. Feigen & Co. represented the Ray Johnson Estate since the artist's death in 1995 until April 30, 2017. The Estate includes an extensive archive of materials including, but not limited to, correspondence, mail art, collages, documentary photographs, objects, and memorabilia. The Estate encourages scholarship and is open to researchers by appointment. To contact the Estate, please email milario@rayjohnsonestate.com.

Staff

Maria Ilario, Director of Archives & Collections

Maria holds a MLIS from Pratt Institute specializing in Archival Science, as well as a BA in Art History focusing on Museum Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. Contact her here: milario@rayjohnsonestate.com for inquiries, research requests and appointments.

Finding Aids

RUBBER STAMPS FINDING AID
Ray Johnson's Rubber Stamps

This collection contains Ray Johnson's rubber stamps, which he used in his prolific mail art practice from the late 1950s to his death in 1995. The stamps were found in a box in his home after his death. The collection includes 116 stamps, most of which have handles marked with commercial brands. Some of the stamps have no handles and bear the names of other mail artists. The bulk of the stamps are textual in nature, but there are some stamps with images only.

Of the stamps which have other mail artists' names, the most prominent name is Rocola, referring to Robert Rocola. There are also references to William "Picasso" Gaglione's Stamp Francisco. Of the stamps with commercial brands, Douglas and Front are the most prominent.

The impressions of these stamps may be seen throughout Johnson's mail art oeuvre and have inspired other mail artists to the present day.
Finding Aid for Ray Johnson's Rubber Stamps

SILHOUETTE FINDING AID
Ray Johnson drawings and silhouettes, 1976-1990

The collection contains drawings and silhouettes by Ray Johnson. All of the drawings are tracings of the subject’s left-facing profile. Many of Johnson's subjects were artists, authors, critics, collectors, curators, gallery owners and others connected to the New York art world of the late 1970s and 1980s. The collection dates from 1976-1990 and includes 294 drawings, 30 silhouettes and 3 xerographic copies.
Finding Aid for Ray Johnson's Silhouettes

RIMBAUD PROJECT FINDING AID
Rimbaud Project

In the November 1971 issue of Arts Magazine, Johnson published a photocopied image of Arthur Rimbaud. The reverse side of the page had the instructions "Detach Along Dotted Line/Participate by adding words, letters, colors or whatever to face. All material submitted will be documented in a future issue/And mail to: Ray Johnson, 44 Seventh St., Locust Valley, N.Y. 11560." The responses poured in during December 1971 and even afterwards. In fact, some mail artists are still using the same Rimbaud template today in homage to Johnson.

The bulk of this box is made up of about 100 responses to the magazine prompt, in some cases with their original envelopes. The remainder of the box is a folder of responses from a similar project with an image of Paul Verlaine as well as miscellaneous correspondence, mail art, and envelopes. Most of the materials date to the end of 1971 or beginning of 1972.
Finding Aid for Ray Johnson and Rimbaud

PERSONAL LIBRARY FINDING AID
Ray Johnson's Personal Library

This collection contains a list of the books and periodicals that made up Ray Johnson's personal library. Johnson collected a variety of books and periodicals over his lifetime, a mix of fiction and nonfiction works, spanning a range of subjects including the arts, natural sciences, language, religion, biography and literature. The collection is organized by shelf number, listed in roman numeral format, however the entire collection is arranged alphabetically and is available to researchers on the shelves at the Ray Johnson Estate.

The wide range of subjects found in Johnson's personal library have been arranged into this finding aid for researchers to explore. It is our hope to provide insight into Johnson's artistic practices while also offering publications, which have become rare for closer inspection.
Finding Aid for Ray Johnson's Personal Library

William S. Wilson

William S. "Bill" Wilson (1932 - 2016), born to artist May Wilson in Baltimore, was one of Johnson’s closest friends and his unwavering champion. He generously welcomed students and scholars to his Johnson archive and wrote essays that provided deep insight into Johnson, his era and his work. Always generous with sharing his profound knowledge, Bill returned questions posed to him from all over the world through ever inspired and voluminous emails, phone calls and letters. The Ray Johnson Estate is profoundly grateful for the many thrilling conceptions and inceptions, on Ray Johnson and in all of his art scholarship, with which Bill has left us.

Bill Wilson graduated with Honors in Philosophy of Science from the University of Virginia, then went on to Yale University where he received an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature. He taught at Queens College, Columbia University, The Cooper Union, and the School of Visual Arts. Wilson also lectured on Eva Hesse at the Jeu de Paume, Tate Modern, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the College Art Association. His novel Birthplace: moving into nearness, was nominated for a Pen-Faulkner Award. He received an N.E.A. art-writer’s grant of $10,000.00, and a $40,000.00 Warhol Foundation Grant, 2012, for a book about the life and art of Ray Johnson. In addition to Ray Johnson, Bill published articles or essays in the following publications: American Book Review, Antaeus, Art & Artists, Art in America, Art Journal, Artforum, Artnews, Arts magazine, Artspace, On Paper, The Paris Review, Studio International and others on artists including: Mel Bochner, Paul Cezanne, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Ralph Humphrey, Alison Knowles, Joseph Levi, Henri Matisse, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Smithson, Paul Thek, Andy Warhol, John Willenbecher, and his mother May Wilson (1905-1986) – an artist whose work is still regularly exhibited. Bill also photographed the following artists, their studios, their performances and/or their exhibitions: John Cage, Christo & Jeanne Claude, Marcel Duchamp, Philip Glass, Alison Knowles, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, Joseph Raffael, Robert Rauschenberg, May Wilson and others.

The Ray Johnson Estate mourns the passing of William S. “Bill” Wilson, who died on February 1, 2016. We are profoundly grateful for the many thrilling conceptions and inceptions, on Ray Johnson and in all of his art scholarship, with which Bill has left us. The art world, this estate, and his many friends and family, have lost a cherished friend and mentor.

Quotes from other scholars on William S. Wilson


William S. Wilson on Ray Johnson, in chronological order... (also found in publication elsewhere on our site)

Ray Johnson: New York Correspondance School, Art and Artists, vol. 1, no.1 [April 1966]

Ray Johnson, The Comedian as the Letter from the catalogue for Correspondence: An Exhibition of the Letters of Ray Johnson

Reference and Relation in "Send Letters, Postcards, Drawings and Objects - The New York Correspondence School", Art Journal, vol. XXXVI/3 [Spring 1977]

With Ray: The Art of Friendship from the publication Black Mountain College Dossier, no. 4: Ray Johnson

Ray Johnson, The One and the Other from the exhibition catalogue for Ray Johnson: Correspondences

Ray Johnson and the Number 13 in Blastitude 3

Retrospections on West 23rd Street with Printed Matter

Ray Johnson: En Rapport from the RLF publication

Ray Johnson, The Early Years from the RLF publication

Ray Johnson, Challenging Rectangles from the RLF publication

Ray Johnson Aboveboard from the catalog From BMC to NYC

Ray Johnson's A Book About Death from the publication A Book About A Book About Death

Dust Jacket Copy for The Paper Snake and Ray Johnson and Dick Higgins: Reciprocities from the publication Black Mountain College Studies, vol. 8: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Paper Snake


SELECTED SCHOLARS

Elizabeth Zuba

Writer and translator Elizabeth Zuba is the editor of Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson 1954-1994 (Siglio Press, 2014). Her forthcoming publications include her translations of Marcel Broodthaers’s Pense-Bete (Granary Books, 2015) and 10,000 Francs Reward (Printed Matter, 2015); as well as a selection of Broodthaers’s poetry and projections (Siglio Press, 2016). She also wrote the catalogue essay for Ray Johnson's Art World in 2014.

Ina Blom

Ina Blom is a Professor at the Institute of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo. Her fields of research and teaching are modernism/avant-garde studies and contemporary art and aesthetics, with a particular focus on media art practices and media aesthetics. She is head of the Seminar of Aesthetics, University of Oslo, and is currently directing the interdisciplinary NFR-funded research project The Archive in Motion. A former music critic and radio DJ, she has also worked extensively as an art critic and curator. She has been a senior curator at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo (2000), and the curator of the Fluxus/Intermedia Collection at the Henie Onstad Art Center in Oslo (1988-93), producing a number of exhibitions on art from the 1960’s onwards. She is a member of the international editorial board of Konsthistorisk Tidsskrift, London: Routledge, and contributes to Artforum, Parkett, Afterall and Texte zur Kunst. Her book publications include On the Style Site. Art, Sociality and Media Culture. New York: Sternberg Press, 2007 (2nd edition 2009), The Name of the Game. Ray Johnson's Postal Performance, Kunsthalle Fridericianum Kassel, Stedelijk Museum Sittard, 2003, Joseph Beuys, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2001 and The Cut Through Time. A Version of the Dada/Neo-Dada Repetition, Acta Humaniora, 1999.

Frédérique Joseph-Lowery

Frédérique Joseph-Lowery holds a Ph. D. from Emory University. She is a regular contributor for Art Press magazine. An authority in Dalínian studies, she wrote several articles examining Dalí’s world in relation to Marcel Duchamp’s work. She is the author of a critical edition of the French manuscripts of La Vie secrète de Salvador Dalí (L’Age d’homme, 2006) with a foreword by Jack Spector. Contemporary Dance and performance was the subject of her book Dalí et Béjart: Danser “Gala” (ed.Notari, 2007) as well as of several exhibitions she curated in Europe and the United States: Dalí Dance and beyond (Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, FL , and Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College CUNY, 2007) and Dalí et Béjart: danser “Gala”(Maison Bergevin, 2007). Joseph-Lowery was the guest editor of a special issue on Dalí (La Revue des Sciences humaines “Lire Dalí”) and she directed two international colloquium: Dalí. Sur les traces d’éros (Cerisy-La-Salle, 2007) and Dali Today (Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY and Catalan Center, New York University, 2010.

Ray Johnson... Dali/Warhol/and others... ‘Main Ray, Ducham, Openheim, Pikabia...’ Edited by Frances F.L. Beatty, Ph.D. New York: Richard L. Feigen & Co., 2009.

Clive Phillpot

Clive Phillpot knew Ray Johnson from 1981 until his death in 1995, at the time he was Director of the Library at the Museum of Modern Art. They talked and corresponded intermittently from 1981, but regularly from 1988-1994. Phillpot published Ray Johnson On Flop Art: Fragments from Conversations... (London: Fermley Press, 2008).
Phillpot’s other essays have been published in Lightworks #22, 2000, New Observations #126, 2000, Art Monthly #239, 2000, Voids: a Retrospective (Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009), and several other publications.
Phillpot and Johnson co-edited Ray Johnson: Jean Dubuffet Fan Club (Nassau County Museum, 1988).
Clive Phillpot now lives in London, England.

"The Mailed Art of Ray Johnson." In More Works by Ray Johnson. Philadelphia, PA: Goldie Paley Gallery, Moore College of Art and Design, 1991.

Sophie Cras

Sophie is a PhD candidate at the Sorbonne University (Paris) under the direction of Prof. Philippe Dagen. She holds a Master's degree in finance (Sciences Po Paris, 2008) and a Master's degree in Art History (Sorbonne, 2009). Among other distinctions, she was a Terra Foundation predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2011.
Her dissertation, entitled L’économie au miroir de l’art, deals with artworks of the 1960s that address and question economics (including price, money, finance, and monetary exchange in general) with artistic means. In this framework, she studies the recurring motif of money in Ray Johnson’s work, in particular his dollar-bill collages in contrast to his correspondence art, seen as an alternative, non-monetary kind of circulating currency.

Kate Dempsey Martineau

Kate Dempsey Martineau, PhD is an independent scholar. Her dissertation titled Ray Johnson in Correspondence with Marcel Duchamp and Beyond focused on Johnson's relationship to the French artist. Her current work investigates Johnson and his milieu in New York during the 1950s-70s. Codes, counter cultures, gylphs, and language come up frequently. Kate has published essays in The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies and several exhibition catalogs including From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson and Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture.

Johanna Gosse

Johanna Gosse is an art historian specializing in postwar American avant-garde art and film. She earned her doctorate in the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College, with a dissertation on the experimental films of Bruce Conner, a San Francisco-based artist and longtime member of the New York Correspondance School. In 2015-2017, she will be a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Art History & Archaeology at Columbia University. This marks a return to the origins of her research on Ray Johnson, which began when she was an art history major at Barnard College and wrote a senior thesis on his artistic formation at Black Mountain College and early moticos practice, which was subsequently published as “From Art to Experience: The Porous Philosophy of Ray Johnson” in the online Journal of Black Mountain College Studies. Johanna is currently working on an article examining the relationship between Johnson’s mail art and Nam June Paik’s experimental video art through the lens of systems theory, as well as a book project on Johnson’s 1950s performative practice. You can learn more about her research and recent publications at www.johannagosse.com.

Miriam Kienle

Miriam Kienle received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 2014 and is currently Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of Kentucky. She writes on contemporary art, with an emphasis on collage, new media, participatory art practices, digital and public humanities, and the history and theory of interpersonal communication. Her dissertation, “Community at a Distance: Ray Johnson’s Correspondence Art Network, 1955-75,” analyzes Johnson’s role as the initiator of the international “mail art” movement through the lenses of postal history, neo-avant-gardism, and theories of gender and sexuality. For her research on Johnson, she received funding from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), The Graduate College at the University of Illinois, and the Association of Historians of American Art (AHAA). Kienle has curated many national and international exhibitions at venues such as Dorsky Curatorial Projects (New York), Krannert Art Museum (Champaign, IL), Burlington City Arts Center (Burlington, VT), and São Roque Museum (Lisbon). Her writings on Johnson and other artists have appeared in such publications as Media-N, Art Papers, Number Inc., Ninth Letter, and NY Arts. Her book-length monograph on Johnson and the mail art movement is currently under preparation.

Gillian Pistell

Gillian Pistell is a PhD Candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. She received her BA in History and Art History from Colgate University in 2008, and her MA from the Graduate Program in the History of Art from Williams College in 2010. She is currently a Research Assistant for the Modern and Contemporary Art Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pistell’s forthcoming dissertation will identify Ray Johnson as an “artist-archivist.”

"Ray Johnson: Artist as Archivist." Interventions Journal, July 3, 2014.

Anatasia H. Rygle

Anastasia is an independent curator, editor, and writer based in New York City. Her research focuses on the New York avant-garde ca. 1950-1965 with particular emphasis on Andy Warhol and his milieu. Anastasia is the co-editor of two book length monographs: Billy Name: The Silver Age, photographs from Warhol’s Factory and Brigid Berlin: Polaroids published by Reel Art Press, London. She is currently curating two exhibitions: Andy Warhol Prints from the Collection of Jordan Schnitzer for the Portland Art Museum opening September 2016 and Brigid Berlin for Invisible Exports opening October 2015. Anastasia has worked for numerous institutions including The Andy Warhol Museum, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Wurtembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, and the Dia Foundation for the Arts as well as many single artist archives and private collections. At the Andy Warhol Museum, she assisted on the exhibitions Warhol Live! Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work, Canis Major: Andy Warhol’s Cats and Dogs, and Recette Satire: Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt. Additionally in 2007 she curated an exhibition of Ray Johnson’s work from Warhol’s personal archive. In 2012 she received her Master’s Degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College where her written thesis, “Ray Johnson: The Dover Street Years, 1953-1960” was accompanied by an exhibition featuring nearly 70 works. In 2014, as Assistant Curator at the Queens Museum, she organized 13 Most Wanted: Andy Warhol and the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Michael von Uchtrup

Michael is a freelance curator, archivist, and researcher, has worked since 1987 with artists and arts institutions in the US, Europe and Japan, contributing to the creation of magazine articles, books, television documentaries, and exhibitions; over a dozen colleges and museums have hosted his lectures. He began cataloguing archives of Ray Johnson's artworks and mail art in 1999, focusing on those of Ray's earliest friends, William S. Wilson in particular. An article on Ray's early years by v.Uchtrup - “I Plan To Send Startling Letters” - appeared in the Black Mountain College Journal in 2012. v.Uchtrup was awarded a fall 2012 residency grant by the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice to begin work on a Ray Johnson biography. In 2015, he curated Something Else Entirely: The Making of Ray Johnson’s 'Paper Snake' at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and guest edited an issue of the journal of Black Mountain College Studies celebrating the Paper Snake's 50th anniversary, with contributions by Barbara Moore, Clive Phillpot, Julie Thomson, Bill Wilson and others.

Related Archival Collections

This is a list of other archival collections related to Ray Johnson. Building this list is an ongoing process, so please contact us with any additions.

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.
The Ray Johnson papers
Oral history interview with Ray Johnson
Ray Johnson is referenced in oral history interviews with these individuals:
Charles Alan
Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier
Bruce Conner
Richard L. Feigen
Alison Knowles
Richard Lippold
V.V. Rankine
Lenore Tawney
Marcia Tucker
Ray Johnson materials can be found in the papers of these individuals:
Richard Artschwager
Dore Ashton
David Bourdon
Geoffrey Clements
Joseph Cornell
Arthur Coleman Danto
Burt Chernow
Norman B. Colp
Helen DeMott
Martin Diamond
Marcel Duchamp (scrapbooks)
Betty Esman
John Evans
Marion Greenstone
Vincent Grimaldi
John Gruen and Jane Wilson
John Held (mail art materials)
Ellen Hulda Johnson
Lilian and Frederick Kiesler
Joan Kron
Katharine Kuh
Ellen Lanyon
Lucy R. Lippard
Dorothy C. Miller
Jack Mitchell (photographs of artists)
Lowell Nesbitt
Louise Nevelson
Ad Reinhardt
Colette Roberts
Barbara Roux
Lenore Seroka (photographs)
Leon Polk Smith
Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt
Ultra Violet
Samuel Wagstaff
Ted and Joan Wilentz (Fluxus materials)
and the records of these institutions:
Betty Parsons Gallery
Eva Lee Gallery
Finch College Museum of Art, Contemporary Wing
Gertrude Kasle Gallery

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Library & Archives
New York, NY
Ray Johnson Artist Files: here and here; in the Franklin Furnace Archive: here and here; in the Steven Leiber Collection here.
Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection
Dorothy Miller Papers
John Held, Jr. Collection of Mail Art Periodicals
Flyers and booklets by Ray Johnson
Miscellaenous documents from John Margolies
David Bourdon Correspondence
Ray Johnson's Artist Books:
BOO K OF THE MO NTH
P EEK A BOO K OFTHE WEE K
A Book About Death
Book About Modern Art
A Book About Modern Art Nothing
A Book About Cranky Ant
Moderately Successful Pop Art
A Book About Unknown Art
This Typewriter Needs a New Ribbon

Ramsey Library at the University of North Carolina, Asheville
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Collection

Fondazione Bonotto
Molvena, Italy
Fluxus Collection: Ray Johnson Artist Page

Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California San Diego
Joe Brainard Letters
Ken Friedman Collection
Jackson Mac Low papers

University of California Santa Cruz Special Collections and Archives
Ray Johnson Mail Art collected by Rita Bottoms
Balloon Newspaper Epoch Part 1

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Balch Art Research Library
Eleanor Antin 100 Boots feedback, 1970-1974

Getty Research Institute Special Collections
Ray Johnson materials can be found in the papers of these individuals:
Lawrence Alloway
Jean Brown
Charles Henri Ford
George Herms
Dick Higgins
Allan Kaprow
Yvonne Rainer
Marcia Tucker

Stanford University Manuscripts Division
Ruth Asawa Papers

University of California Santa Barbara
Pat Fish mail art collection

University of Southern California Libraries
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
Los Angeles, CA
Orlando Gallery records

University of California Berkeley, Bancroft Library
Jess Papers
Bruce Conner Papers

New York Public Library
Schomberg Center
Naomi Sims papers

Houghton Library, Harvard
Cambridge, MA
New Directions Publishing Corp. records

University of British Columbia, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
Vancouver, Canada
Morris/Trasov Archive
Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery fonds
Peter Schuyff fonds

National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Art Metropole Collection
Ray Johnson mail art in the Art Metropole Collection

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Germany
Sohm Archive

Lomholt Mail Art Archive

Long Island University, Post Campus
Brookville, NY
Joan Harrison Archive

Northwestern University Library Special Collections
Evanston, IL
Dick Higgins Archive

University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & University Archives
Iowa City, IA
Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts (ATCA) Collections
Includes:
The ATCA Rubber Stamp Art Collection
The Crane/Friedman Correspondence Art Collection
The Buster Cleveland Papers
The Albert M. Fine Collection
The Ken Friedman Archive and Collection
The Dick Higgins Collection
The E.F. Higgins III Collection
The Lil Picard Papers
The William Gaglione Papers

Asheville Art Museum
Black Mountain College Collection

University at Buffalo Libraries
Mail Art Collection

Kunsten Museum of Modern Art
Aalborg, Denmark
Mogens Otto Nielsen Mail Art Archive