2 X Ray Johnson—Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson and The Paper Snake by Ray Johnson

2 X Ray Johnson—Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson and The Paper Snake by Ray Johnson


Ray Johnson, Untitled (Not Nothing), n.d. (1990s). Courtesy of the Ray Johnson Estate
and Richard L. Feigen & Co.
June 9, 2014

2 X Ray Johnson—Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson and The Paper Snake by Ray Johnson


Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954–1994
Edited by Elizabeth Zuba, with an essay by Kevin Killian

“Make room for Ray Johnson, whose place in history has been only vaguely defined. Johnson’s beguiling, challenging art has an exquisite clarity and emotional intensity that makes it much more than simply a remarkable mirror of its time, although it is that, too.”
–Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Ray Johnson (1927–1995), considered the progenitor of Correspondence art, blurred the boundaries between life and art, authorship and intimacy. The defining nature of his work was his correspondence, his letters (often both visual and textual in character), intended to be received, replied to (altered and embellished) and read, again and again. This lovingly curated collection of more than 200 mostly previously unpublished writings opens a new view into the whirling flux of Johnson’s art, highlighting his keen sense of play as well as his attuned sensitivity to both language and the shifting nature of meaning.

Addressed to both intimates and strangers, the letters and other writings are often populated by art world and literary luminaries from the mid-20th century (from Joseph Cornell to Yoko Ono, Marianne Moore to Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Greer to Andy Warhol, John Cage to Christo), some of whom were Johnson’s close friends, others acquaintances, and still others the objects of his interest. All however are reconstituted as something other (or more) than themselves as Johnson uses both arrangement and serendipity to set meaning in flux, to subvert the fixed (names, persons, objects, words), and to question the singular while having his own very particular point-of-view.

Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson is but one possible selection from thousands of pieces from the Ray Johnson Estate archives. In this chronological presentation, editor Elizabeth Zuba’s intention is to make space for thoroughly experiencing a pervasive and often overlooked aspect of Johnson’s work: language. With near full-size reproductions of the original pages in color and half-tones, the works in Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson can be easily read—and are revelatory in their diverse but porous modes and in the way they deepen the understanding of Johnson’s entire oeuvre.

The Paper Snake by Ray Johnson

“The first principle of Ray Johnson’s art is that anything isolated is beautiful, albeit opaque. The second principle is that meaning awakens in that isolated beautiful thing when it is juxtaposed to something like it.”
–William S. Wilson, from his introduction to The Paper Snake

Long out of print (and coveted by Ray Johnson fans), The Paper Snake is an essential work in Johnson’s oeuvre and the second title published by Dick Higgins’s extraordinary Something Else Press in 1965. A vertiginous, mind-bending artist’s book, The Paper Snake was far ahead of its time in its subversive and exuberant confluence of art and life. Assembled and designed by Higgins from his amassed collection of Johnson’s letters, tidbits and artworks, The Paper Snake connects disparate elements to unbed fixed relationships and forge new systems of meaning by means of scissors, paste and the American postal system.

An essay by Frances F. L. Beatty, Director of the Ray Johnson Estate, is included as a separate insert, and in the spirit of the original, the print run is the same (1,840 copies). This reprint is four-color offset, a different method than the original in which Higgins used a two-color process with innovative ink combinations.

About Siglio Press
Siglio is an independent press dedicated to publishing uncommon books and editions that live at the intersection of art & literature: inimitable, visionary works by renowned as well as little known artists and writers that defy categories and thoroughly engage a reader’s intellect and imagination.

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