Green Hornet With Arman and Andy,” one of many never-before-exhibited collages by Ray Johnson on display at Feigen Contemporary through Saturday.
This week at the FEIGEN CONTEMPORARY gallery in Chelsea is the last chance to see more than 40 hallucinatory, never-before-exhibited collages in which Mr. Johnson used his art friends and peers as raw material for his work.
If any artist can be said to have lived — and probably died — for art, it is RAY JOHNSON. In January 1995, at 67, after an unorthodox and highly productive career that lasted more than four decades, he swam the backstroke out into the frigid waters of Sag Harbor Cove on Long Island and drowned.
Whether his death was his last, most dramatic performance-art piece is only one of many questions surrounding Mr. Johnson, who wrapped himself in considerable mystery. Partly because of this, he was often portrayed during his life as a wily art-world outsider. But he was deeply involved with many of the most influential artists of his day, including Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
This week at the FEIGEN CONTEMPORARY gallery in Chelsea is the last chance to see more than 40 hallucinatory, never-before-exhibited collages in which Mr. Johnson used his art friends and peers as raw material for his work. The collages mingle the names and sometimes the silhouettes of the famous and the favored with many of Mr. Johnson’s trademark bunnies and a Freudian stew of other images: a urinating penis, a spatula, a mousetrap, a head shot of Montgomery Clift.
Mr. Johnson, among the earliest artists to exploit celebrities as subject matter, thought of some of the collages as portraits. In his “portrait” of the cartoonist Saul Steinberg, a curvaceous beauty seems poised, like Esther Williams, to take a dive off his nose. Through Saturday, 535 West 20th Street, (212) 929-0500.
Another interesting show that Mr. Johnson might have appreciated, “ONE OF A KIND: THE STUDIO CRAFT MOVEMENT,” opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday. Following the history of the movement as it developed after World War II, the show focuses on 47 artists who used new materials and nontraditional methods in making furniture, housewares and other objects, infused with a strong sense of the abstract, the surreal and the playful. Through Sept. 3, (212) 535-7710.