…to bring you news of the show “Tables of Content: Ray Johnson & Robert Warner Bob Box Archive” at the Berkeley Art Museum:
Perhaps the sight of multiple missives stacked on top of each makes you swoon? Well, here’s some eye candy for ya! :
The Berkeley Art Museum has done an excellent job of installing the show, working closely with Robert Warner to set everything up “just so”. Each table of correspondence is “open air”, so to speak; nothing rests under glass or inside a vitrine.
This show may look familiar to some of you who follow Esopus magazine; issue #16 featured faithful, full scale reproductions of many things which are on display at the BAM. The backstory of the show? In a nutshell: Ray Johnson gave Robert Warner thirteen cardboard boxes when they knew each other in NYC. After Johnson’s death in 1995, Warner went through each box, taking inventory of miscellaneous mail and random objects inside. Every box contained an assortment of objects and a variety of correspondence sent to Johnson over the years.
Eventually, Esopus magazine became involved and offered to curate a show around the mail art/correspondence/boxes. Esopus published an article/interview with Robert Warner in conjunction with the show and it was a big hit.
I stopped by the show on opening day (along with other Correspondence Co-op members and John Held Jr.) to listen to Robert Warner speak about the contents of each box, as well as what it was like to know Ray Johnson. The gallery was filled with fifty or so folks, all bewildered and awed by the amount of correspondence sent between these two.
If you’re a fan of Ray Johnson, new to the mail art scene, or looking for inspiration this is a fab show to check out. Personally, I was reminded of how each person’s specific aesthetic comes to the forefront, when sending things through the post. Who’d consider sending a fine-tooth comb through the mail? (wait, don’t answer that…) Or a balsa wood glider? Or a private school logo patch from downtown Detroit? The elements we use and the things that we decide to send to other people are usually the kinds of correspondence we’d like to receive ourselves.
Perhaps the thing that struck me the most about “Tables of Content” had to do with the fact that the artfully arranged items on each table top and the carefully stacked piles of correspondence could have been my bits-and-bobs: projects in progress and things that eventually find their way to someone else, all amassed in a single room that I call my studio. Standing in the gallery at the BAM, it was easy to appreciate that each item and element spoke of a larger picture, a dialogue of sending/receiving, accumulating/sharing.
“Tables of Content: Ray Johnson and Robert Warner Bob Box Archive” runs through May 20th, 2012. More info can be found at the Berkeley Art Museum website. On Friday, April 18th, author Dickran Tashjin (Joseph Cornell: Gifts of Desire, 1992) will give a gallery talk in relation to the show.