Ray Johnson’s Silhouette Profiles

%22Untitled (Dear Edge), by Ray Johnson, 1973-94, collection of William S. Wilson

“Ray went to the original myth of painting as the use of profiles or silhouettes to preserve memories of a face. He used a profile as a perspective on a person which a person can only with difficulty achieve for himself or herself. Because he recognized limits on self-knowledge and on knowledge of another person, he used profiles as signs of just how much of another person we are going to know and should try to know. Within his own private Buddhism, Ray drew profiles and printed names in order to awaken the mind to recognition of another person, but not to tell it what to think. He imposed limits on insight into other people, because he both felt real limits on knowledge of another person, and he believed that limits should be respected, as though a loving father and a loving son did not need to know everything about each other. A profile of a face did not encourage, nor did it fix, an interpretation of a person such as a frontally confrontational face might suggest. Ray abided by a lesson he learned in his study of Buddhism, to awaken the mind, but not to fix it on anything.”

Link to full text: William S. Wilson in “Ray Johnson: En Rapport,” Feigen Contemporary, New York, 2006.

Image: “Untitled (Dear Edge), by Ray Johnson, 1973-94, collection of William S. Wilson

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