The story of the life of artist Ray Johnson is cloaked in mystery not only at the moment of his death, but also throughout a career that was difficult to know and to understand. As one of the seminal figures in the Pop Art era, Johnson is known as the founding father of mail art and as a collagist extraordinaire. But, overshadowed by those like Warhol who manipulated that world in a very dissimilar manner, he was also a reclusive and sometimes enigmatic figure who has been called New York's most famous unknown artist, but who challenged the commercial and critical establishment. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This documentary provides a much different angle on the presentation of subject, and this is what makes it exciting. That we cannot ever know Johnson, especially in light of the fact that he has committed suicide, makes the entire exercise all the more intriguing. Interview after interview evinces an all-too-rare character study of someone who simply did not want to be known. The art of this concealment builds to an exhilaratingly creepy conclusion that will be familiar to anyone who has been affected by suicide. How can we think we know someone who commits this unthinkable act? The segments regarding Johnson's rope-a-dope art dealings and coyness about capital is worth the price of admission alone. His influence is everywhere in the art world to this day, and yet few will remember him.
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