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How to Draw a Bunny (2002)How to Draw a Bunny (2002)

Pop artist, prankster, and provocateur extraordinaire, Ray Johnson (1928–1995) had many acquaintances, but to a person no one claimed to know who he really was. His life, his death from suicide, and his prolific work were a single, seamless performance act. This documentary interviews curators, his agent, collectors, the police that investigated his death, his first cousin, fellow artists like Christo, and even, appropriately, his mail carrier (Johnson mailed thousands of pieces of his "mail art" to people around the world). The same semantic range of words emerges from them all — enigmatic, elusive, isolated, underground, and mysterious. In one "work" he dropped sixty foot long hot dogs from a helicopter. In another, we see him hopping around on one foot as he beats a cardboard box with a belt. "He kept so much of himself to himself," remarked one person. "No one ever seemed to know what he did, or what he thought he was doing," observed another. But upon his death a veritable treasure trove of Johnson's work surfaced—paintings, drawings and especially mixed media collages pasted on the cardboard inserts of laundried shirts (he once told a friend he did "chop art" and not "pop art"). The film, much of which is shot in black and white, begins and ends with consideration of his theatrical death on Friday, January 13th, 1995. His body was found floating under a bridge in Sag Harbor, New York, by buoy number 13. The night before Johnson had stayed in room #247 (= 13) of a motel. He was 67 (= 13). A few days later people discovered his house meticulously staged with transparent clues. Johnson was clearly an extraordinary and eccentric genius, once referred to in the The New York Times as the "most famous unknown artist." His works which spanned nearly 50 years are now exhibited in museums around the world.

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