Opening reception: Thursday, November 7, 6-8 PM
Flatiron Project Space
133 W 21 Street
New York, NY 10011
BFA Visual & Critical Studies, the Flatiron Project Space and the Ray Johnson Estate are pleased to announce BOB BOX SVA, one in a series of unique exhibitions born of the friendship between Ray Johnson (1927-1995) and Robert “Bob” Warner.
One day in 1988, artist and optician Bob Warner found himself intrigued by a postcard a friend had taped to her wall. Warner soon mailed the sender, Ray Johnson (1927-1995), one of his own collages, an act that initiated a relationship, mixing friendship and artistic collaboration, which lasted until Johnson’s death in 1995. Even as the two grew close, following Johnson’s usual preference, they rarely met, communicating mainly by telephone and by mail. In 1990, though, Johnson arranged a mysterious rendezvous, at which he presented Warner with 15 cardboard boxes, each labeled “Bob Box 1,” “Bob Box 2,” and so forth, with the unstated understanding that Warner was to be their steward. Johnson later directed Warner to deliver boxes 14 and 15 to a third artist, Neke Carson, reducing Warner’s cache to thirteen—not coincidentally, Johnson’s favorite number.
Just as he was getting to know Johnson, Warner happened to meet art dealer Frances Beatty, then President of Richard L. Feigen & Co. and an avid Johnson fan, who had been trying for years to convince Johnson to let her do an exhibition of his work. When Johnson died in 1995, Beatty became the Director of the Ray Johnson Estate, which is now under the aegis of Adler Beatty, art gallery and advisers. While organizing the Ray Johnson Memorial show at Feigen, Beatty turned to Warner for advice; since then, she has consulted him frequently and begun to explore Warner’s own art and his relationship with Johnson.
In 2011, Warner curated the first Bob Box exhibition at Esopus, in Greenwich Village. When Beatty saw the show, she was delighted and astonished by the way Warner had channeled the spirit of Ray Johnson while giving it his own distinctive twist. Inside the 13 cardboard boxes there is not only a plethora of mail art, but a vast array of objects Johnson found on the beach or other places around his home in Long Island: dead horseshoe crabs, playing cards, dolls, seashells, dice, tennis balls, T-shirts, and even signed and dated empty toilet paper tubes. Bob Warner’s performance of unpacking the boxes and meditating out loud on their possible references and meanings reflects the myriad of crossovers between Warner and Johnson, who seem to surf the same interior waves. This performance plunges viewers into Johnson’s world, a place Holland Cotter described in his June 23, 2011 review in the New York Times as “a stupefyingly complex weave of personal codes, puns, dark jokes, and cultural cross-references.” Since 2011, Beatty and her team have aided Warner in organizing other Bob Box exhibitions, each one tailored to its space and occasion, around the United States.
Please join us for BOB BOX SVA, wherein Bob Warner will share the contents of the Bob Boxes at SVA’s Flatiron Project Space, one box at a time with the help of a few guest un-boxers, and immerse visitors in the complex network of Ray Johnson’s art.
The gallery is open Monday through Sunday, 9 AM to 6 PM. It is fully accessible by wheelchair.