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Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66

First Floor

March 28 - June 29, 2024

Selected Works Thumbnails
Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Seven Centers of a Ladder, 1950

Tempera on board

40 x 15 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Seven Centers of a Ladder, 1950

Tempera on board

40 x 15 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder World, 1949-51

Tempera on boarad

27 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder World, 1949-51

Tempera on boarad

27 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Calm Center, c.1949-55

Oil on board
28 5/8 x 28 5/8 inches

Kravis collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Calm Center, c.1949-55

Oil on board
28 5/8 x 28 5/8 inches

Kravis collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder Whirled, 1952-65

Collage of cut painted paper with tempera, on colored board

30 x 30 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder Whirled, 1952-65

Collage of cut painted paper with tempera, on colored board

30 x 30 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Moticos with Red Ground), 1958

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

11 x 7 1/2 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Moticos with Red Ground), 1958

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

11 x 7 1/2 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Strips Whirled), c. 1953-58

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper with opaque and translucent watercolors, and metallic coated paper with traces of graphite, on colored board, mounted on board

7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Strips Whirled), c. 1953-58

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper with opaque and translucent watercolors, and metallic coated paper with traces of graphite, on colored board, mounted on board

7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Caged, 1959

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on colored board

10 2/5 x 7 1/4 inches 

Museum of Modern Art, New York. Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, 1965

 

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Caged, 1959

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on colored board

10 2/5 x 7 1/4 inches 

Museum of Modern Art, New York. Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, 1965

 

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

With Two Antacid Ingredients, c.1953-59

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

14 1/4 x 10 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

With Two Antacid Ingredients, c.1953-59

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

14 1/4 x 10 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Birds, c. 1955

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper, with tempera, gouache, enamel, and ink, mounted on colored canvasboard

26 5/8 x 24 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Birds, c. 1955

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper, with tempera, gouache, enamel, and ink, mounted on colored canvasboard

26 5/8 x 24 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Fire on Ice, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on colored board, mounted on colored board

23 1/2 x 17 7/8 inches

Richard L. Feigen collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Fire on Ice, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on colored board, mounted on colored board

23 1/2 x 17 7/8 inches

Richard L. Feigen collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Totem, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with acrylic and pastel, on colored cardboards, mounted on board

23 1/2 x 17 3/8 inches 

Private collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Totem, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with acrylic and pastel, on colored cardboards, mounted on board

23 1/2 x 17 3/8 inches 

Private collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Comb, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board 

25 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Comb, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board 

25 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

ICE, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board

30 x 30 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

ICE, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board

30 x 30 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Seven Centers of a Ladder, 1950

Tempera on board

40 x 15 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Seven Centers of a Ladder, 1950

Tempera on board

40 x 15 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder World, 1949-51

Tempera on boarad

27 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder World, 1949-51

Tempera on boarad

27 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Calm Center, c.1949-55

Oil on board
28 5/8 x 28 5/8 inches

Kravis collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Calm Center, c.1949-55

Oil on board
28 5/8 x 28 5/8 inches

Kravis collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder Whirled, 1952-65

Collage of cut painted paper with tempera, on colored board

30 x 30 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Ladder Whirled, 1952-65

Collage of cut painted paper with tempera, on colored board

30 x 30 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Moticos with Red Ground), 1958

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

11 x 7 1/2 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Moticos with Red Ground), 1958

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

11 x 7 1/2 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Strips Whirled), c. 1953-58

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper with opaque and translucent watercolors, and metallic coated paper with traces of graphite, on colored board, mounted on board

7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Untitled (Strips Whirled), c. 1953-58

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper with opaque and translucent watercolors, and metallic coated paper with traces of graphite, on colored board, mounted on board

7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches

The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Caged, 1959

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on colored board

10 2/5 x 7 1/4 inches 

Museum of Modern Art, New York. Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, 1965

 

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Caged, 1959

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on colored board

10 2/5 x 7 1/4 inches 

Museum of Modern Art, New York. Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, 1965

 

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

With Two Antacid Ingredients, c.1953-59

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

14 1/4 x 10 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

With Two Antacid Ingredients, c.1953-59

Collage of cut printed and painted paper with tempera and gouache, on colored cardboard, mounted on board

14 1/4 x 10 inches 

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Birds, c. 1955

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper, with tempera, gouache, enamel, and ink, mounted on colored canvasboard

26 5/8 x 24 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Birds, c. 1955

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored paper, with tempera, gouache, enamel, and ink, mounted on colored canvasboard

26 5/8 x 24 1/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Fire on Ice, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on colored board, mounted on colored board

23 1/2 x 17 7/8 inches

Richard L. Feigen collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Fire on Ice, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on colored board, mounted on colored board

23 1/2 x 17 7/8 inches

Richard L. Feigen collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Totem, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with acrylic and pastel, on colored cardboards, mounted on board

23 1/2 x 17 3/8 inches 

Private collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Totem, 1965

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with acrylic and pastel, on colored cardboards, mounted on board

23 1/2 x 17 3/8 inches 

Private collection

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Comb, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board 

25 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

Comb, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board 

25 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

ICE, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board

30 x 30 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Ray Johnson (1927-1995)

ICE, 1966

Collage of cut printed, sandpapered, and painted paper with tempera, gouache, and ink, on boards, mounted on colored board

30 x 30 inches

Ray Johnson Estate, New York

Installation Views -

Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66
Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66

Press Release

NEW YORK – Craig Starr Gallery is pleased to present Ray Johnson: Paintings and Collages 1950-66, on view from March 28 through June 29, 2024.

This exhibition brings together a selection of Ray Johnson’s rarely seen abstract paintings, along with his intricate, pasted-paper collages, and “moticos.” The show maps the various practices Johnson pursued in the early part of his career, and demonstrates, in the words of scholar Johanna Gosse, “that painting and collage were not separate phases in Johnson’s oeuvre but rather coterminous practices, or, to use the artist’s preferred term, they were in correspondence.”

In the late 1950s, Ray Johnson destroyed most of his early work: paintings, some collages, even his class notes from Black Mountain College, the experimental liberal arts school outside Asheville, North Carolina, which he attended in the 1940s. The abstract paintings in the exhibition are among the few that survived this ritualistic purge, spared because they were previously gifted to close friends and romantic partners.

Some of Johnson’s paintings and collages showcase his preference for dramatically contrasting colors and repetitive geometries. Almost ten years apart, the painting, Calm Center (c. 1949-55), and the collage, Birds (c. 1960), are both vibrantly colorful, tapestry-like compositions made up of self-contained, individual squares or grids. In Calm Center, each square has a unique geometric design, an autonomous system, ranging from mosaic tiles to stripes to concentric squares. Birds is organized in contrast by the color of the pasted elements carefully arranged in an all-over grid with a more unified design. Calm Center, a painting given to Richard Lippold, a sculptor and longtime lover of Johnson, is a key transitional piece, as Johnson returned to it in 1955 to inscribe a heart at its center. This heart foreshadows the imagery in Johnson’s collages, like Birds, a move away from the methods of abstract painting towards a collage practice that incorporates language, signs, and recycled materials from the outside world.

After the destruction of his early work, Johnson reworked some of his collages into symbolic configurations, that he often called “moticos.” In pieces like Totem (1965) or ICE (1966), Johnson cut and pasted strips of colored and printed material, including elements from previous works, to suggest the shape of a “totem” or spell the word “ice,” the pictures’ titles. As opposed to Birds, where the images of birds accompany an otherwise abstract composition, the “moticos” are constructed as glyphs, letters, or signs. Similarly, Comb shows two painted images of combs, seemingly stenciled shadows, suggestive of persons within a house-like structure. The combs also refer to Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Comb (1916; Philadelphia Museum of Art), an everyday object that fascinated Johnson as a transcendental symbol. In a letter to Lippold, Johnson wrote, “I’d like to write an illustrated treatise on the comb in art from Paleolithic times to Picabia, Arman and Johnson-Duchamp.”

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes a new essay by Johanna Gosse, writer, art historian, and lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She is also currently the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of Oxford.