Artistamp Gallery - Ray Johnson


This special Ray Johnson gallery contains:

Cracker Jack Kid's narrative of Ray Johnson's art and life
CrackerJack Kid's song entitled Ray Johnson, and
a page containing images by Ray Johnson.


Ray Johnson

Father of Mail Art




Your Network Gate to Emailart Presents




On Friday, January 13, 1995, Ray Johnson, pop art pioneer, conceptualist, and the father of mail art was discovered drowned in Sag Harbor Cove, Long Island. News of Johnson's death spread rapidly through telephone calls, email messages, and mail art created by friends of Ray Johnson, members of Ray's New York Correspondence School (NYCS).

The New York Correspondence School was established by Ray Johnson in the early '60s; it was singularly the most important contribution of Ray Johnson to the history of art, a point missed by leading newspapers and art magazines reporting Johnson's death. It was Fluxus and Ray Johnson's NYCS that birthed mail art, the largest international art community and movement in the history of art. Membership into the NYCS was bestowed upon anyone Johnson chose to correspond with and the exchanges were wonderful, intimately engaging verbal and visual play. Throughout the 1960s til his death, Ray Johnson was the conduit, the server, the proto-internet dada daddy surfing the mailstream, invading mailboxes everywhere with bunnies, imaginary Fan Clubs, and correspondance wordplay.

Mail artists around the world embraced Johnson's notion of making ordinary mail an art of extraordinary wit and beauty. Johnson's legacy lives today in numerous gatherings of mail artists such as the NYCS Salami Chapter which paid homage to Ray's passing at Katz' Deli. On Saturday, April 29 over 200 of Johnson's friends and members of his NYCS gathered at Friends Meeting House (Rutherford Pl. betweeen 2nd and 3rd Ave.) where he established the first NYCS gathering in April 1962.

I first met Ray Johnson when he invited me to rendezvous at his 1984 retrospective exhibition at the Nassau County Museum of Fine Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York. Since 1980 Ray and I exchanged numerous items, but one of my favorites was Ray's webbed underwear sent to be pulverized for my Material Metamorphosis Mail Art Project.

Ray's last phone calls to me were about my kids, his "nothings," dead frogs on his lawn, a happy birthday wish, a notification of the death of Jean Brown, support for my edition Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology, stories about Fluxus artist A.M. Fine, and answers to my questions about Ray and Fluxus; Ray claimed to have "nothing to do with it - I'm the New York Correspondence School, Cracker!" My last piece of correspondence from Ray was a letter addressed to my four year old daughter Lauryn, "To Lyndy c/o Crackerjack Pop."

When I created the concept of mail art as emailart in 1991, I was actively communicating with Ray Johnson by mail. It is appropriate that mail art's first online electronic museum should honor the contributions of Ray Johnson by sending his work into cyberspace. Two weeks after Ray's death, I received this quote from a letter sent by Swiss mail artist H.R. Fricker, "I have heard from Vittore Baroni (Italian mail artist and music critic) about the END of Ray Johnson's era. Baroni said, 'from an historian's point of view, the death of Ray Johnson and the Networker Telenetlink to Internet marks the end of the mail art era."

I'm of the notion that mail art never dies, it returns to sender! The sender is mail art, servers (post, internet) carry the message. I'm confident Ray would approve of his appearance in another world (cyberspace) as ethereal as the one he must occupy now. The works presented here in the Emailart Gallery are among the last visual images and words I received from Ray Johnson. The Emailart Gallery's tribute to Ray Johnson follows with Ray's first internet appearance on the World Wide Web.


Ray Johnson Bunny
Tides Motel Meeting, Bayville, N.Y.
Tides Motel Meeting, Bouvine, N.Y.
Tides Motel Meeting, Bouvier, N.Y.
Carole Bombard
Death Stamp
Ray Johnson's Last Self-Portrait

Johnson Gallery 2 ->

Johnson Song ->oh


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