Ray Johnson Dreams of Marcel Duchamp

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Johnson, Ray. Untitled Collage “Duchamp had also painted an overdoor in the drawing room. . .”.

np: [1958]. 8 1/2 x 11″, collage with graphite holograph on white paper. Folded twice and housed in the original mailing envelope, postmarked in 1958.

The publication last year of Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954-1994, by the excellent people at Siglio Press was one of my favorite books of the year. It brought much needed attention to Johnson’s work as writer, and he was one of the most consistently fascinating writers of his time, though his strange texts are often overshadowed by the emphasis on the visual element of his work.

This is my work by Johnson – a simple collage consisting of an engraving of men working on roofs, from an unknown source, matched with a handwritten text by Johnson recounting a dream visit to the Duchamp residence. An early tribute to an artist that would arguably influence Johnson’s body of work more than any other, as references to Duchamp abound throughout Johnson’s oeuvre.

Ray Johnson wasn’t the only artist to dream about Duchamp – the matter of fact quality of his account is similar to Joseph Cornell’s transcriptions of dreams he had about Duchamp in the late 60’s, or even the gangster in the fourth case of the film Dreams That Money Can Buy – the Duchamp scene -in which the gangster wants a dream that will help him win horse races – all three scenes installments in a hypnagogic, alternate dream history of influence in conceptual art.

The work was included in Not Nothing: The Selected Writings of Ray Johnson, as plate no. 8.

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