Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Moonie
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Drawing upon material from the Lawrence Alloway papers and the Dick Higgins papers at the Getty Research Institute, this essay considers Ray Johnson’s mail art in relation to the writings of British critic Lawrence Alloway. Johnson’s mail art practice mirrored several aspects of Alloway’s analysis of the art world as a network. This is evident in Johnson’s use of the network as both a subject of his art and a means of distribution for his art. The multivalent qualities of Johnson’s work also parallel the multiplicity of meanings opened up by the expanded art world, as discussed by Alloway. And yet, Alloway’s writings reveal that he himself harbored reservations about this system, challenging the view that his critical pluralism uncritically accepted the expanding art world. At the same time, Johnson’s recalcitrant behavior toward buyers and other art world participants seems at odds with his playful and irreverent gestures. These latent antagonisms complicate Alloway’s designation of Johnson as a “poet of non-ressentiment.” They also point to the complex nature of communication and social interaction that subtended the expanded postwar art world.
Author(s): Moonie S
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Getty Research Journal
Online publication date: 01/02/2016
Acceptance date: 13/06/2014
ISSN (print): 1944-8740
ISSN (electronic): 2329-1249
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
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