Ray Johnson in correspondence with Marcel Duchamp and beyond
MetadataShow full item record
Believing that one thing was real only if it corresponded with others, Ray Johnson highlighted the connections between himself and famous artists such as Marcel Duchamp. The ways the two artists thought and how they shaped their lives corresponded like two elements in Johnson's collages. My study of Johnson through the lens of Duchamp allows me to discuss two highly intellectual and creative artists. I address the few direct interactions between Johnson and Duchamp as well as their mutual acquaintances who served as conduits of information, particularly in Johnson's direction. This dissertation focuses on Johnson's creative engagement with Duchamp and begins to explicate the depth and richness of that interchange. Each chapter focuses on several key works by Johnson, ranging from some of his earliest collages to what was perhaps the last work he completed. Through these works I explore the correspondences between the two artists outside of their individual works, with each chapter looking at one major theme including language, the viewer, performance, and identity. I outline the relationship between Duchamp and Johnson, using the selected collages to demonstrate how the synergy of the two artists is manifested in Johnson's work. My work sheds light on the enigmatic Johnson who has only very recently come under critical and historical investigation. By looking at Duchamp from this unique perspective I am also contributing to our understanding of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Most artists after Duchamp felt that they worked in his shadow but Johnson's relationship to the elder artist was different. He seems to have understood Duchamp better than almost anyone and therefore was able to selectively choose his inheritance--defining himself alongside and against Duchamp.