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Ray Johnson’s “Dollar Bill” collages are giddily “tragic” works that embrace notions of obituary, funny floral and other designs, photos of movie stars and artists, names of famous “friends” and semi-“famous” friends, and anything else the artist comes up with. The obituary elements in each of them (Carmen Miranda’s is a particularly unnerving one) seems to be helping the rest of the work to take heart, stay healthy and keep busy; any negative associations the viewer may have with the real dollar-bill basis of these collages are, Johnson seems to be saying, kind of positive, with the inclusion of serialized, funny-figure “pecking orders” (Johnson writes in under each of the repeated images the names of his art world friends, movie stars and art-world stars) providing for a kind of social commentary so built-in that it is whimsical.

Excerpted from the May 1971 edition of Art News.

Dollar Bills
September 16 - October 17, 1970
Richard Feigen Gallery
Chicago, IL

Dollar Bills and Famous People Memorials
April 3 - May 5, 1971
Richard Feigen Gallery,
New York, NY