Ray Johnson has been called the “the most famous unknown artist in the world.” He was an unsung Pop Art innovator, collaging, mailing, and performing his way through the mid-twentieth century New York art scene. As artist Billy Name says in one of the interviews in the film: “Rauschenberg was a person making art, so was Andy (Warhol). Ray wasn’t a person. Ray was art… That’s why he’s an artist’s artist.”
How To Draw a Bunny documents Ray’s life as best as it could be done. Many were acquainted with him and his work – and many over long periods of time – but no one seemed to know who Ray was. His entire life was a performance. And so too, it appears, was his death (the mystery surrounding his apparent suicide opens the film). He never went to openings, never had his own art show, despised galleries, was meticulous about his prices, and truly worked outside the art system his entire career.
Ray Johnson started or helped start many of the techniques and trends for which other artists are known: the use of copy machines and collaging; using images from advertising, brand logos, and pop culture icons; and mail art, or as he called it, “correspondence art.”
How To Draw a Bunny is a fun collage in itself: a collection of interviews of artists who knew Ray, including Chuck Close, Christo and Jean-Claude, James Rosenquist, the aforementioned Billy Name, and Ray Johnson himself; many great photographs; and, presented mostly in black and white, the film maintains the opening mood of mystery throughout. It’s a fun and intriguing look at an artist about whom one may not have heard, but will certainly be better off with his acquaintance.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.