Last October, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center put on a conference entitled Re-Viewing BMC. Along with my impromptu talk on Ray, there were two other Johnson-centered presenters. One, Julie Thomson, couldn’t make it so I was asked to read it for her. Her essay explored the role Albers’ teaching played in Ray’s work. The other presenter, Kate Dempsey, gave an amazing talk on a way to “decode” Ray’s work by exploring his own childhood fascination with codes and code rings. By the end of the conference, I had asked each to allow me to publish their work in this catalogue. And I had already asked Bill for an unpublished piece on Ray’s interest in Marianne Moore and her tricorn hat. And pretty soon after that I realized I had to have something from Art Secunda, too. They could do all the heavy-lifitng for me. All I had to do was bring all these little notes together, arrange them in some sensible way, and try to introduce the whole thing.
Maybe because I am a writer and a collagist myself, there appears no other way to do approach Ray’s work but to track his creative process as he moves from place to place. Ray’s friends, it seems to me, accepted Ray for what he was not what he could or should be. They lived his limitations as he lived with theirs. (Secunda told me that he ever shy Ray looked you not in the face but “in the mail.”)
Bill on Ray, in his article: “Ray’s collages conceal any depths in order to reveal his satisfactions with surfaces. Surfaces suffice, in his experiences and in his art, both of which are finite, but unbounded.”