Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ray Johnson | 8 Man Show 5 at Willenpecker Gallery

Ray Johnson
8 Man Show 5 at Willenpecker Gallery 
New York City, USA: Self-published, 1968
Set of 5 Cards
Edition size unknown

Five cards (of diminishing size) advertising an 8-man show, each of which features only four artists, and no information regarding location, dates or times. Additionally, Johnson's name is misspelled on three of the the cards. The painter Robert Benson is also misspelled as Benton, possibly alluding to the Oscar winner film director of Kramer vs Kramer, who - at the time - was the art director of Esquire magazine. George Brecht becomes Mrs Brecht in the third iteration.

The cards pictured above were mailed to the critic Lawrence Alloway and to then-MoMA librarian Clive Phillpot, whose name is also incorrectly spelled.

The first two exhibitions take place at the Robin Gallery, the second two at the Woodpecker Gallery, and the final at the Willenpecker Gallery. All three are the invention of the artist. Robin Gallery is possibly a play on Anita Reuben's Reuben Gallery, a space that became synonymous with the Happenings of Allan Kaprow (who Johnson would sometimes mock with his own 'Nothings'). Willenpecker Gallery might have been an allusion to the painter John Willenbecher.

The rear-endpaper (an accidental pun he might approve) of Johnson's Something Else Press artist book The Paper Snake also includes a reference to the fictitious 8 Man Show, as does a small advertisement he placed in the Village Voice newspaper on July 30th, 1964 (below). Both feature the image of a snake, suggesting that the 8 in 8-man might also refer to a snake or infinity symbol.

A set of four of these cards are available from Printed Matter, here, for $200 US.

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