Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Mail Art Response Provides Pandemic Panacea

Recently received mail art includes responses to Charts of the Universe 2020

We are extremely lucky, thus far at least, to be in our little mountain cove far from the hotspots during the trying times of Spring 2020. Just as the news got really bad, I was in the midst of mailing out a major project – Charts of the Universe 2020. Suddenly mail art seemed like a really good idea, and actually made the news, described as “a charming trend” on artnet.com. I got several nice responses to my Charts project, including some wonderful mail art pieces to add to my large collection.

Anna Podris created the image above as the centerpiece of her tri-fold mail art. Anna’s design responded directly to the Charts format, but I find the bird to be a perfect specimen of her own style, evoking her wonderful story-telling encaustics.

Anna Podris mail art object

Orvokki Crosby sent a wonderful mail art folder created from what appears to be a long dust jacket with many labor intensive additions, all textured with meticulous marker highlights. She is a big fan of snail mail and, like myself and many others, hopes mail art remains viable (along with the Postal Service that allows it to exist!)

Orvokki Crosby’s mailing from front

The mail art pictured at the top of the post features several postcards from Connie Bostic, a beloved Asheville artist and pillar of the BMC scene there, as well as John Justice, a new writer friend who says he is inspired by the mail art he has received. The “Quing” postcard is from Richard C, who curated the 1976 Ray Johnson mail art exhibit that got me started with mail art in the first place. Richard is going strong with mail art, and so am I. Maybe in the slightly new world in which we find ourselves, others too will see the value in this populist and irrepressible art form.

All Raleigh Rambles posts on mail art

May 2, 2020 Posted by | art, mail art | , , , | Leave a comment

Charts of the Universe Culminates After 33 Years

Just completed Charts of the Universe 2020, a collage booklet in an edition of 36. Each one features an original collage, as seen above, with the following image recipe: a wildlife image, a cultural image, Jesus and a redemptive butterfly, a connective ribbon and two different brackets.I have been creating and sending correspondence art since discovering Ray Johnson and his show of mail art at the downtown NC Museum of Art in 1976. Ray responded to the zine I sent him and I was hooked for life.

This series, as with most, including a similar project entitled Science and Truth published soon after the Trump election, looks for resonances between art and science, between data-based visuals and visual aesthetics, locating surprising beauty in graphic information. The current project wraps up the Charts project for me, which began as an installation of assemblages at The Paper Plant bookstore which was accompanied by a chapbook of Chart images. Images of the chapbook are below.

The show of assemblages included over a dozen works, some designed for individual people and a few general ones. Like the final booklet I just mailed, the project was dedicated to Clyde Smith, who took me to that life-changing Ray Johnson show, and Richard C, the curator of that show, who became a friend and correspondent who still sends me his wry and quirky postcards.

Though I will continue to Chart in personal correspondences, this booklet marks the completion of the project and its group pieces. Send me your snail mail and I will add you to my mailing list. You will probably get a Ray J Jumps In, a memorial project that I hope will never end. Cheers to mail art!

Project Updates

John Diamond-Nigh’s blog post featuring Charts 2020

        photo by Ginny Webb

                  photo by Tom Patterson

                   photo by Alan Bowling

 

March 18, 2020 Posted by | art, mail art | , , | 2 Comments

Ray Johnson Show a Multiple Power Play

 “to make open the eyes”   Josef Albers All work of Ray Johnson on this site is used by permission of The Ray Johnson Estate

BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson (1943-1967)

Ray Johnson was probably the most enigmatic and least appreciated artist of his importance in the 20th century.  He was a man of many many layers, not so much depth, on first impression, just layers, fairly random factors that underlie and overlay his work.  The show just ended at The Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center had many layers itself, over multiple valuable events, and provided a greatly needed showcase and explication for this “seminal figure of Pop Art” whose collages “influenced a generation of contemporary artists.”

The show and especially its catalogue were already reviewed here, but several subsequent events have enriched the impact of the show.  Dr. Francis F. L. Beatty (quoted and seen above), a curator who works with the Ray Johnson Estate, gave a lecture at the BMCM+AC on May 21, using parallel slides to show that Ray displays elements in his collages that link him to the major artistic trends of the day.  His wit, humor and intense communications of all kinds were highly stimulating but hard to classify, but his collages and the palette he created out of found and encountered material can be seen as fully in the tradition of Klee’ as well as Albers,  while partaking of the humor of Dada.  “I don’t make pop art.  I make chop art.”  Ray’s statement refers to his use of old work in new, and Dr.  Beatty skillfully elucidated the way in which Ray’s “chop art” (often meticulous geometric constructions) came right out of his Black Mountain experience.  She makes a point that reverberated through this show: the liberation of American education happening at Black Mountain served as well to “liberate Ray Johnson.”   He found himself, and he found the principle that best illuminates the breadth of his work for me: images standing in for words, words become imagery.

ray_johnson by Rose Hartman via John Wilcock

Yet Ray remains enigmatic.  Dr. Beatty spent much time on the 55 Moticos – huge intricate collages – which Ray made and destroyed, calling them “some of the earliest and most significant examples of Pop Art.”   She recounted many personal interactions with Ray, such as the time he approached her and finally wanted to do a gallery display – of  “Nothings.”   Beyond his inscrutability, his avoidance of the commercial process, Dr. Beatty makes a simple but important point – the small scale of Ray’s visual work limited his gallery prospects and indirectly his artistic stature.

Asheville Vaudeville performer closes Ray’s show

 The scale of Ray’s imagination and willingness to live his life for art was unbounded, of course.  The final night of the show, orchestrated by curator Sebastian Matthews, was a truly wild and wonderful event that did much to reflect Ray’s spirit.  Music, poetry, and spoken word all filled the space.

“We have to seize the things we need to create.”  These words were spoken in Picasso’s voice by Keith Flynt, one of the closing night performers (seen below).

Earl Bragg, seen above, offered a nine-eleven poem that featured number names – worthy of Ray’s glyphs and puns.  His political themes and passionate phrases made for an excellent reading.

Local dramatists staged a reading of a collaged piece incorporating Ray’s play inside a play about Ray discussing a play with pink James Dean.

The final word has to go to Sebastian Matthews, who did such a magnificent job not only of putting on the show but of staying in touch with Ray’s spirit the whole time.  He evoked and nurtured the image of Ray as filled with humor, energy – and a total lack of any sense of propriety.  About the “chop art”  and “lost art” which was so prominent in the show, he says: “Ray loved to make things up, kill them off, and resurrect them.”

The Ray show is dead, long live the Ray show.

 

 

July 1, 2010 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, Ray Johnson | , , , , | 3 Comments