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PLEASE SEND TO REAL LIFE: Ray Johnson Photographs at The Morgan Library & Museum, June 17 – October 2, 2022  

“The Morgan Library & Museum presents PLEASE SEND TO REAL LIFE: Ray Johnson Photographs, opening June 17 and running through October 2, 2022. This exhibition explores the previously unknown camera work of the widely connected downtown New York figure, Pop art innovator, and pioneer of collage and mail art. At his death on 13 January 1995, Ray Johnson (1927–1995) left behind a vast archive of art in his house, including over five thousand color photographs made in his last three years. Small prints, neatly stored in their envelopes from the developer’s shop, the photographs remained virtually unexamined for three decades. Now they can be seen as the last act in a romance with photography that had begun in Johnson’s art some forty years earlier. After retracing the story of Johnson’s use of photography throughout his career, PLEASE SEND TO REAL LIFE offers an in-depth look at the late work the artist called ‘my career in photography’.” — The Morgan Library & Museum  

Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Bill and Long Island Sound, winter 1992. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Shadow and manhole, spring 1992. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Path of headshots and back steps, spring 1992. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Andy Warhol life dates on flowers, July 1992. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). RJ silhouette and wood, Stehli Beach, autumn 1992. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Jasper John, February 1993. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Headshot and Elvises in RJ’s car, February 1993. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.(ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Outdoor Movie Show on RJ’s car, February 1993. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Four Movie Stars, Locust Valley Cemetery, 31 March 1993. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). Harpo Marx bunny, headshot, and payphone, February 1994. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995). RJ with Please Send To Real Life and camera in mirror, 23 December 1994. Commercially processed chromogenic print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy of Frances Beatty. © Ray Johnson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“These photographs show that in his last years, Ray Johnson remained irrepressibly, explosively creative,” said Smith, the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Morgan. “It’s his last great body of work, and its very casualness is prophetic: ten years later, smart phones and social media turned daily life into a constant exchange of personal photographs and commentary. Johnson was still making collages right up to the end—but now he made them in a camera, and the ‘real life’ all around him was his medium.”

Exhibition was curated by Joel Smith.

Images courtesy  The Morgan Library & Museum.

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