February 19 – June 12, 2010
Opening reception: Friday, February 19, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Free for BMCM+AC members and students w/ID / $3 non-members

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC) will present the exhibition From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson (1943-1967) beginning February 19th, 2010, and running through June 12th. In addition, we will host related programs, including a guest lecture, a film screening of the popular documentary How to Draw a Bunny, a collage workshop by Washington DC collagist Krista Franklin and an opening-night performance by Graham Hackett and Poetix Lounge. An exhibition catalogue will be available for purchase.

A seminal Pop Art figure, Ray Johnson has been called the most significant “unknown artist” of the post-war period, a “collagist extraordinaire” who influenced Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, as well as a generation of contemporary artists. Since his death, however, Johnson has emerged not only as a key member of the 1960’s generation, but as one of the major artistic innovators of the second-half of the 20th century.

Black Mountain College—in particular, Johnson’s first teacher, Josef Albers—was a critical factor in Johnson’s development as an artist. Indeed, Johnson’s time at the college can be viewed in retrospect as a platform from which he dove into Manhattan and its vibrant art world. Our exhibition will explore the ways that many of Johnson’s early tutelary influences, both the people and the places, helped create his unique vision. Throughout his career, Johnson always found ways to engage those around him—mentors, friends and strangers alike—in a correspondence “dance” of collage, letter writing and interactive performance art. Following in Marcel Duchamp’s footsteps, Johnson, as one art critic put it, “introduced life into art.”

Through a carefully selected group of paintings, collages and early correspondence, From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson will explore the early transitions in Johnson’s career—in particular his graduation from high school in Detroit to his three years of serious study at Black Mountain College to his immersion in the Manhattan art scene of the 1950s and 1960s. From BMC to NYC, curated by writer and collage artist Sebastian Matthews, will trace a circle around roughly two decades of Johnson’s early art, creating a spotlight on his explosion from talented painter and master collagist to, by the 1960s, Grand Dean of Dada & Postal Art. The exhibition will provide an interactive, playful presentation of Johnson’s “tutelary” work, highlighting the people and places that influenced Johnson’s creations in order to give the viewer a roadmap of Johnson’s creative process.

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is an exhibition space and resource center in downtown Asheville dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of the world’s most acclaimed experimental educational community, Black Mountain College. Over the course of its 24 year history, Black Mountain College attracted and created maverick spirits, some of whom went on to become well-known and extremely influential individuals in the latter half of the 20th century. Even now, decades after its closing in 1957, the powerful influence of BMC continues to reverberate.

Citation: Ray Johnson James Dean/Rimbaud
ca. 1956-58
Collage on cardboard
11 by 7-5/8 inches
Private Collection

Related Programming
Graham Hackett & Poetix Vanguard are spoken-word performers who deliver poems solo, as duets, in 3 parts, or as ensemble pieces. They will perform throughout the opening reception.

Saturday, February 27, 10:00 a.m – 2:00 p.m.
The Visual Poetry workshop, taught by Chicago-based poet and artist Krista Franklin, will engage participants in the creation of original work out of pre-existing text and images. Using the art of collage, workshop participants will engage in art-making exercises designed to expand one’s creative possibilities. Pre-registration suggested. $20 / $15 BMCM+AC members + students w/ ID. Most materials provided.

Thursday, April 8, 7:00 p.m.
How to Draw a Bunny John Walter and Andrew Moore’s award-winning documentary tells the story of collage artist Ray Johnson, whose death was cloaked in mystery and whose life and art remain enigmatic. As one of the seminal figures in the Pop Art era, Johnson is known as the founding father of mail art and as a collagist extraordinaire. Winner of the special jury prize at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Fine Arts Theatre – 36 Biltmore Avenue, Downtown Asheville $10 / $8 BMCM+AC members + students w/ID

Friday, May 21, 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Frances F. L. Beatty, Vice President of Richard L. Feigen & Co. and Director of the Ray Johnson Estate, will talk about Ray Johnson’s attitude towards exhibiting his work, the contents of the Estate and her relationship with the famously eccentric artist. $7 / $5 BMCM+AC members + students w/ID

Saturday, June 12, 7:00 p.m.
Earl Braggs teaches creative writing and African-American literature at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is the author of five collections of poetry, including Hat Dancer Blue and In Which Language Do I Keep Silent: New and Selected Poems. Keith Flynn is the founder and editor of the Asheville Poetry Review. His fourth book of poems, The Golden Ratio, and his first book of nonfiction, The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing, have garnered Flynn national attention. $7 / $5 BMCM+AC members + students w/ID

Support for this project has been generously provided by: the North Carolina Arts Council, Asheville Area Arts Council, Henco Reprographics and many generous individual sponsors.

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