Ray Johnson and William S. Wilson: Frog Pond Splash

 

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Collages by Ray Johnson with Texts by William S. Wilson


This gemlike Ray Johnson book celebrates his friendship with writer and logophile William S. Wilson in pictures and words

Dubbed Ray Johnson's Boswell, writer and logophile William S. Wilson was one of legendary artist Ray Johnson's closest friends and biggest champions. He was also perhaps Johnson's most trusted poetic muse and synthesizer of referents and references. The influence was mutual: throughout their lifelong friendship, begun when both men were in their twenties, writer and artist challenged and enriched one another's work.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition of Ray Johnson works from Wilson's archive at the Art Institute of Chicago, Frog Pond Splash embodies the energy, expansiveness and motion of their work and their friendship. Editor Elizabeth Zuba has selected short, perspicacious texts by Wilson (from both published and unpublished writings) and collage works by Johnson to create juxtapositions that do not explicate or illustrate; rather, they form a loose collage-like letter of works and writings that are less bound than assembled, allowing the reader to put the pieces together, to respond, to add to and return to the way Johnson required of his correspondents and fellow travelers.

Taking its title from Wilson's haiku equivalence of Johnson's process, Frog Pond Splash is a small book but many things: a collage-like homage to their friendship, a treasure chest of prismatic correspondances, as well as an unusual portrait of the disappearing, fractured Johnson through Wilson's words. Zuba's nuanced selection and arrangement of images and texts in this sumptuous little volume honors Johnson's open system (which rejected closed and consistent meanings, codes and symbols) in its open, associative, and intimate playfulness.

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