Ray Johnson Art Exhibition Featured at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in downtown Asheville presents the new exhibition SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY: Ray Johnson, Dick Higgins and the making of THE PAPER SNAKE from June 5 – August 22, 2015. There will be a gallery talk by the exhibition’s curator Michael von Uchtrup at 7:00pm during the opening reception. The following day, we’ll have a public discussion with two Ray Johnson scholars, Michael von Uchtrup and Julie J. Thomson, moderated by UNC Asheville Professor of Philosophy Brian E. Butler.

Ray Johnson (1927-1995) arrived at Black Mountain College from Detroit at age 17, for the 1945 Summer Institute, as WWII was coming to a close. The formidable Josef Albers was at the helm, and by the time Johnson left the college more than three years later, he’d studied alongside fellow students Hazel Larsen Archer, Ruth Asawa and Kenneth Noland while both Josef and Anni Albers, Ilya Bolotowski, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Lyonel Feininger, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Richard Lippold, Alvin Lustig, Robert Motherwell, M.C. Richards, and many others taught at or visited BMC during this robust era of its history. In 1949, Ray arrived in New York with sculptor Richard Lippold, where he continued several friendships – and embarked upon new ones – with others who had come to the city from Black Mountain College.


Lost for decades, the production materials from this innovative compendium of Ray Johnson’s mail art were only recently rediscovered, in time for the book’s republication and the 50th anniversary of its 1965 release. Lively, quirky, often comic, the texts and drawings provide an intimate look at the early work of Ray Johnson (1927-1995) through the eyes of his friend Dick Higgins (1938-1998), one of the Fluxus movement’s impresarios and the founder of the groundbreaking Something Else Press. THE PAPER SNAKE appeared before it could be widely appreciated, because in 1965 Ray Johnson was not well known outside of the New York Correspondence School, the mail art network he’d created.

Throughout his career, Johnson always found ways to engage those around him—mentors, friends and strangers alike—in a correspondence “dance” of collage, letter writing and interactive performance art. Following in Marcel Duchamp’s footsteps, Johnson, as one art critic put it, “introduced life into art.”

View the full-color program guide here.


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