by Matthew Rose
April 9, 2007
In April, 1990 I had the first of three meetings with Ray Johnson, each on Long Island, and this first one at my house. He would visit me, he said, at 5 PM. On the dot. And he was there. On time. We talked in my kitchen drinking black coffee and moving through dozens of subjects from synchronicity to Joseph Cornell, to my problem with bees (they were living in the crook of my window) to the double Elvis prints Warhol did and Ray said were given to him, but were at that time hanging in the Larry Gagosian Gallery.
It was quite enlightening in many ways. Towards the end of our meeting I showed Ray my Macintosh SE computer. At that time I had e-mail, although no one was on the Compuserve Network – at least no one I knew. "Ray, want to see my computer work?" I said and flipped the button to turn it on. "Oh, no no no…" he said. I thought he might like the different typefaces I could produce in Pagemaker. No dice. Ray, famous for watching TV (or leaving it on for company or ideas) all day long, had zero interest in computers or networks. Well that was what he said. From what I understood, the mail and its paper,envelopes, stamps were enough for him; no attached jpgs or PDFs or iChat for this artist. Ray typed on some 1960s/70s typewriter (ask William Wilson what kind), and I could hardly entertain the idea of him sitting down and cranking out mass e-mails. Some time later I think I was speaking with Mark Bloch and I told him I hadn't received any mail from Ray in a while, but that I did get plenty of telephone calls. "So Ray is doing telephone art now?"
Ray would probably remind everyone here, though, that there were many Ray Johnsons in the world. He wrote them all. I'm certain most have e-mail.