How to Draw a Bunny
Posted by Pale Rider
Ray Johnson (1927-95) is the subject of John Walter’s absorbing documentary portrait How to Draw a Bunny. An art-world prankster, Johnson made an anti-career by using the U.S. Post Office as the major distribution system for his complex, punning collages. As a good American, he was preoccupied with celebritude—appropriating images of Elvis and James Dean and founding obscure fan clubs—even while cultivating his own obscurity.
“His whole life was a game, like his work,” one colleague says of this Duchampian figure who turned every attempt to sell his art into a Zen exercise. “Ray wasn’t a person,” another elaborates. “He was Ray Johnson’s creation.” One of the pleasures in Walter’s documentary, which won a special jury prize at Sundance and leaves little doubt of Johnson’s significance, is the parade of veteran painters, confounded dealers, and miscellaneous bohos who expound upon the subject’s mysterious personality without ever explaining him: “Everyone had a story about Ray Johnson.” Even I have one. During the first week of 1995, Johnson—whom I’d never met—called me out of the blue with a question concerning the framing of a photograph in a book I’d written. A week later, he jumped into Long Island Sound and drowned. “If none of us could understand his motive for living, how could we understand his motive for dying?” someone wonders.
Walter’s documentary ends with the police video taken of Johnson’s house in suburban Locust Valley, Long Island. Unprepossessing on the outside, the place turns out to be all studio, filled with boxes and meticulously stacked pictures. There is nothing on the wall and no image facing out except one oversized, deadpan portrait of the artist. That Johnson’s suicide was obviously his final work is a most disquieting form of integrity.
(DivX AVI- 594,735 kb)
e-limbo* / UBU announces alliance with GreyLodge
UbuWeb is pleased to announce a brand new alliance with the incredible avant-garde resource GreyLodge, home of the and . Over the past year, we have shared a similar aesthetic and have mirrored each other's content. Now, with the two sites partnering, you will see an increase in new film and audio offerings on UbuWeb, as well as a great increase in bandwidth and server stability for GL users. Welcome GreyLodge!
When future historians comb through the wreckage of our century to reconstruct a picture of the origins of "do-it-yourself" culture, they'll reach back before grunge, zines and punk, to the late Ray Johnson, whose artistic use of coin-operated Xerox machines in the early sixties are a milestone. When all of us but Elvis are dead and gone, some sleuth inquiring "who WAS the first Pop artist, anyway?" will undoutedly unearth Johnson's celebrity collages of James Dean, Shirley Temple and the King himself.