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Untitled (Water is Precious)

A work made of collage of cut printed, painted, and colored papers, with traces of black paint and graphite, on board.

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  • A work made of collage of cut printed, painted, and colored papers, with traces of black paint and graphite, on board.

Date:

c. 1956/58

Artist:

Ray Johnson
American, 1927-1995

About this artwork

“Water is Precious Use It Wisely,” declares the headline in a newspaper clipping at the top of this work by Ray Johnson. The line adds a playful if ambiguous twist to the manipulated photograph below it—Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Brussels (1932)—encouraging us to read the two men pressed against a wall as, possibly, urinating. Extending the game of joke by juxtaposition, Johnson situated the upper bodies of these men atop the lower torsos and legs of three men carrying Western-style handgun holsters. Above the men, in the collage’s top right corner, Johnson planted a more oblique reference to water: a fragment of a flyer that he designed with small silhouetted forms he called moticos. Johnson coined this term in 1955 and applied it to a variety of experimental works he was making from complete collages to their component parts. The term is an anagram of the word osmotic, which describes the movement of fluid across a membrane. Johnson’s collaged headline thus slyly references the presence (and preciousness) of water as a central metaphor within his practice.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Ray Johnson

Title

Untitled (Water is Precious)

Place

United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

c. 1956

Medium

Collage of cut printed, painted, and colored papers, with traces of black paint and graphite, on board

Dimensions

34.5 × 15.7 cm (13 5/8 × 6 3/16 in.)

Credit Line

Promised gift of The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson

Reference Number

Obj: 248614

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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