Jack Shadbolt: Works from the Collection
Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties

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    How sad I am today... The Art of Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School. Exhibition catalogue. 150 pages, colour and b/w images.
    Soft cover. Essays/Writings by Michael Morris, Sharla Sava, Peter Schuyff, Muffet Jones.
    $35.00 / SOLD OUT
    ISBN# 0-88865-612-2 — To order contact: belkin@interchange.ubc.ca, tel. 604.822.2759,
    fax. 604.822.6689.

How Sad I am Today...

The Art of Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School

8 October—19 December 1999

Often credited as the instigator of “mail art,” Ray Johnson (1927-95) was a foundational example for the Canadian avant-garde in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Johnson’s elliptical puns and promotion of confused identity act as the master template for many of the self-constructed artistic mythologies of this time. Ray Johnson has never been presented in terms which allow for an understanding of his work as a significant contribution to artistic dialogues about masculinity, homosexuality and celebrity culture. The show investigates Johnson’s imagination of mass culture, theories of symbolic exchange, his gay subjectivity, his role as a “Pop” artist, and his relation to Andy Warhol. His mail-network identity, clubs, events, etc. foresee aspects of today’s cyberculture and Johnson is being increasingly recognized as such.

Ray Johnson was an important American collage and correspondence artist whose innovative artistic practice has persistently failed to garner the attention of the mainstream art press. His work brings to light the struggles of international art production as it attempted to deal with the crisis of modernist painting in the decades following World War II. Based in New York during the 1950-60s, Johnson’s contribution to the art of that era (as well as his lack of renown) has to be understood in relation to his innovative technical method. He was the seminal figure in the practice of mail art and it is through his dedicated engagement with the processes of distribution and circulation that he created an intellectual and artistic geography where practitioners could imagine and enact the wide-ranging possibilities of an artistic practice which stood playfully and strategically apart from the problematic of modernist painting.

Inspired by Johnson’s mail art communications, Canadian artists including Anna Banana, General Idea, Eric Metcalfe, Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov and Peter Schuyff could overstep the constraints of their geographic and cultural isolation and configure their own practice within the embattled terrain of the North American art world. The emergence of the Canadian avant-garde during the 1960s was shaped, in a critical and unmistakable way, by the universe which Johnson’s mail art created.

As a part of the exhibition a catalogue will include critical essays, a chronology and an exhibition check list; and a website at http://www.belkin.ubc.ca/_archived/rayjohnson/ has been created to introduce viewers to the significant themes in the show. The site is an ongoing process and is organized in four parts which will appear over a four month period: Nothing, Blood, Collage, Death.

Curated by Michael Morris and Sharla Sava.

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at jana.tyner@ubc.ca,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689