Arts & Culture

UK Professor’s Article Analyzes Portrait by Ray Johnson

photo of Ray Johnson's portrait mail art to Samuel J. Wagstaff
Ray Johnson's mail art to Samuel J. Wagstaff (1964). Samuel J. Wagstaff Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. © The Ray Johnson Estate.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 18, 2020) Miriam Kienle, assistant professor of art history at the University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies, analyzes the remains of Ray Johnson’s mid-1960s portrait of Samuel J. Wagstaff in her recent article "Facing Others: Ray Johnson's Portrait of a Curator as a Network." The article is featured on the cover of the fall issue of Archives of American Art Journal.

Using several forms of art world communication — commercial, bureaucratic and interpersonal — influential pop artist and pioneering correspondence artist Ray Johnson created a portrait of noted curator and photography collector Samuel J. Wagstaff that emphasized identity as dependent on one’s position in their social network. Many have previously noted the networked character of Johnson’s mail art practice, but few have explored its connection to contemporary network theory and none have examined any correlation with portraiture of the period. 

In this article, Kienle argues Johnson “transformed the genre by representing personhood as an embodied and open system that resists discrete categorization and total disclosure, particularly regarding gender and sexuality.”

The Archives of American Art, previously known as the Archives of American Art Bulletin, supports new approaches and out-of-the-box thinking about primary source materials.

Kienle specializes in modern and contemporary art, with an emphasis on collage, new media, participatory art practices, digital and public humanities, and the history and theory of modern communication. Curatorial practice is central to Kienle's research and teaching. She has curated many national and international exhibitions at venues such as Burlington City Arts (Burlington, Vermont); Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs (New York, New York); Krannert Art Museum (Champaign, Illinois); and Museum of São Roque (Lisbon). Kienle is also the regional coordinator for The Feminist Art Project.

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, part of the College of Fine Arts, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studio, art history and visual studies, art educationcuratorial studies and digital media design.


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