Printed Matter / St Marks’ store tote bag featuring Ray Johnson’s iconic bunny head illustrations. Each tote includes a printed informational card about Ray Johnson and a pen with which to customize your bag. 2 large external pockets.
Ray Johnson (1927–1995) was a seminal Pop Art figure of the 1950s, an early conceptualist, and a pioneer of the mail art movement, in which networks of artists exchanged works by way of the postal service. Johnson’s preferred medium was collage, integrating texts and images drawn from a multiplicity of sources including everything from mass media to recorded telephone conversations. He not only operated in what Robert Rauschenberg famously called “the gap between art and life,” he also erased the distinction between these things such that his entire being became one continuous “work of art.”
In January 1964, Ray Johnson signed a letter to his friend William (Bill) S. Wilson with a small drawing of a bunny head next to his name. This image rapidly proliferated in his work, becoming Johnson’s signature and “self portrait,” and acting as personifications of how he felt on a given day. Johnson also used the bunny head to represent the many artists, celebrities, and friends who populated his works and appeared in his mail art, a practice that he dubbed the “New York Correspondence School.”
Ray Johnson frequently instructed the recipients of his mail art to alter and forward his letters to others, carry out a performance, or respond in kind with their own creations. In this additive spirit, use the enclosed pen to give the rest of your bag’s bunny heads their names—to get you started, we’ve added some already that Ray Johnson used in his works, plus one of our own.
At their core, Johnson’s correspondences were communal in nature, so we encourage you to make this bag a collaborative work: ask your friends to sign their names, add doodles, and most importantly, make it your own. You could even send it in the mail.
The Bunny Heads Tote Bag was produced with the support of the Ray Johnson Estate. For more information on Ray Johnson, please visit www.rayjohnsonestate.com or the Estate at 34 E. 69th Street, New York, NY 10021.