Date of Degree

2-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Mona Hadler

Committee Members

Katherine Manthorne

Edward Powers

Kalliopi Minioudaki

Subject Categories

American Art and Architecture

Keywords

Mail Art, Social Network, Gossip

Abstract

Scholars unfailingly comment on the complex community of artists, poets, and musicians that form the foundation of Ray Johnson’s visual language, yet do not examine the implications of these relationships on Johnson’s art. “Ray Johnson: Collage as Networked ‘Correspondance’” looks at Johnson’s mail art and collages through the lens of Social Network Theory, a sociological concept used to analyze social groups, to investigate possible meanings recorded within Johnson’s elaborate imagery and show how his relationships manifested in his work. I argue that Johnson used his mail art to gather people and information to create a network, which he then manipulated and documented in his collages. This dissertation explores key examples of mail art and collages to examine the points where Johnson’s social circle and art intersect to present a more comprehensive understanding of the artist and his work than has hitherto been offered. I bring in related concepts of game play and gossip to nuance my argument and suggest alternative historical narratives that traditional research overlooks or dismisses, particularly references to homosexuality. To conclude, I show that this project was egocentric. Namely, he built an archive for this select community that not only preserves its history, but also cements him as deeply involved with it.

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