Get local news delivered straight to your phone
THURSDAY & FRIDAY, APRIL 4
Support City Paper!
“Everyone had a story about Ray Johnson, but nobody knew the whole Ray Johnson.” That judgment comes not from any of Johnson’s New York art-world pals, such as Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Chuck Close, Christo, Peter Schuyff, Richard Feigen, or Billy Namewho all appear in this lively documentarybut from a Sag Harbor policeman. And why is a cop the final authority on the eccentric collage-maker, performance artist, and inveterate bunny drawer’s life and career? Because he was the person who had to determine how Johnson, in what may have been his final work of unpurchasable art, came to be floating in Long Island Sound. Johnson didn’t sell many of his pieces, and the myriad amusing stories collected in John Walter’s How to Draw a Bunny don’t quite explain why. It may be that the artist really wanted the large sums he demanded for his collages and drawings, but it’s also possible that he considered his elaborate haggling to be part of the art process itself. In one of his more elegant subversions of the system, Johnson got his work into the Museum of Modern Art by mailing it to the institution’s library, whose policy was to keep everything it received. Variously described in the film as “a Zen master,” the father of correspondence art, and “not a person [but] Ray Johnson’s creation,” the artist remains mysterious. So does his 1995 demise, although he left some clues. But in death as in life, Johnson’s gift was for provocation, not explication. How to Draw a Bunny screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 3, and Friday, April 4, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th and Independence Avenue SW. Free. (202) 357-2700 (Mark Jenkins)