Believing that one thing was real only insofar as it corresponded with others, twentieth-century artist Ray Johnson highlighted the connections between himself and other artists including Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Anni Albers, and especially Marcel Duchamp. This study of Johnson through the lens of Duchamp and the other artists who inspired him entails the investigation of hieroglyphs, codes, action figures, queer theory, and cultural history. By examining Johnson’s collage and Correspondence art in relation to his main inspirations, this critical work brings new light to the study of Johnson and to the dynamic networks of artistic inheritance and correspondence of the twentieth century.
Kate Dempsey Martineau earned her PhD from the University of Texas. An independent scholar, she explores the intersecting art and political climates of the 1950s and 1960s as well as the complex relationships within the burgeoning New York art world.
"Previously, Ray Johnson escaped the level of critical inquiry presented in this excellent study by Kate Martineau. Her examination of correspondence between Johnson and Marcel Duchamp does much to correct that oversight. Thoroughly researched and clearly written, this book brings important aspects of the secretive Johnson to light, doing so without transforming the younger artist into an acolyte of the older artist."—James W. McManus, coeditor of AKA Marcel Duchamp: Meditations on the Identities of an Artist
"Founder of Correspondence art, creator of collages, devotee of Marcel Duchamp, Ray Johnson was both an insider (he exhibited his work in galleries and associated with a wide range of artists including John Cage, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol) and outsider (living in isolation and remaining, in the author’s words, a conundrum to all until he ended his life in 1995). Through her exhaustive research and analysis Martineau succeeds in drawing these various threads together to create a vivid portrait of this unique artist."—Constance Lewallen, Adjunct Curator, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive