Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to Draw a Bunny

How to Draw a Bunny is a film by first time documentary maker John W Walter about enigmatic a reletively unknown artist Ray Johnson. The film is really well done and is one of my favorite documentaries. Johnson was most famous for his unique mail art. Made in 2002, How to Draw a Bunny is a fitting tribute to one of the most mysterious and influential artists of the 1960's and earlier.

Ray Johnson (1927-95) is the subject of John Walter’s absorbing documentary portrait How to Draw a Bunny. An art-world prankster, Johnson made an anti-career by using the U.S. Post Office as the major distribution system for his complex, punning collages. As a good American, he was preoccupied with celebritude�appropriating images of Elvis and James Dean and founding obscure fan clubs�even while cultivating his own obscurity.

“His whole life was a game, like his work,” one colleague says of this Duchampian figure who turned every attempt to sell his art into a Zen exercise. “Ray wasn’t a person,” another elaborates. “He was Ray Johnson’s creation.” One of the pleasures in Walter’s documentary, which won a special jury prize at Sundance and leaves little doubt of Johnson’s significance, is the parade of veteran painters, confounded dealers, and miscellaneous bohos who expound upon the subject’s mysterious personality without ever explaining him: “Everyone had a story about Ray Johnson.” Even I have one. During the first week of 1995, Johnson�whom I’d never met�called me out of the blue with a question concerning the framing of a photograph in a book I’d written. A week later, he jumped into Long Island Sound and drowned. “If none of us could understand his motive for living, how could we understand his motive for dying?” someone wonders.

Walter’s documentary ends with the police video taken of Johnson’s house in suburban Locust Valley, Long Island. Unprepossessing on the outside, the place turns out to be all studio, filled with boxes and meticulously stacked pictures. There is nothing on the wall and no image facing out except one oversized, deadpan portrait of the artist. That Johnson’s suicide was obviously his final work is a most disquieting form of integrity.

If you are interested in watching this amazing film, thanks to greylodge I can direct you to this torrent


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