Queer Networks

Queer Networks

How the queer correspondence art of Ray Johnson disrupted art world conventions and anticipated today's highly networked culture

Once regarded as "New York's most famous unknown artist," Ray Johnson was a highly visible outlier in the art world, his mail art practice reflecting the changing social relations and politics of queer communities in the 1960s. A vital contribution to the growing scholarship on this enigmatic artist, Queer Networks analyzes how Johnson's practice sought to undermine the dominant mechanisms of the art market and gallery system in favor of unconventional social connections.

Utilizing the postal service as his primary means of producing and circulating art, Johnson cultivated an international community of friends and collaborators through which he advanced his idiosyncratic body of work. Applying both queer theory and network studies, Miriam Kienle explores how Johnson's radical correspondence art established new modes of connectivity that fostered queer sensibilities and ran counter to the conventional methods by which artists were expected to develop their reputation.

While Johnson was significantly involved with the Pop, conceptual, and neo-Dada art movements, Queer Networks crucially underscores his resistance to traditional art historical systems of categorization and their emphasis on individual mastery. Highlighting his alternative modes of community building and playful antagonism toward art world protocols, Kienle demonstrates how Ray Johnson's correspondence art offers new ways of envisioning togetherness in today's highly commodified and deeply networked world.

Publication Date: 
November 28, 2023