Johnson lived as a virtual recluse for much of his later life, devoting himself to the grandest project of his career – a flow of correspondence between friends, acquaintances and other artists. The material he accrued was integrated into collages like this that were themselves carved up and reassembled, often over a period of years. In this image Johnson draws attention to the baffling anonymity of death; labelling his skulls with incongruous female names makes them appear even more characterless. After his suicide, several of Johnson's works were found neatly arranged in his home, perhaps abandoned rather than completed.
Copyright Ray Johnson Estate, courtesy Richard L Feigen & Co