Skip to Content
Today Open today 11–5

Untitled (Taoist Collages)

A work made of mixed media.

Image actions

  • A work made of mixed media.




Ray Johnson
American, 1927-1995

About this artwork

In December 1955 Ray Johnson mailed this group of 30 collages to Sybil Shearer, a dancer and choreographer then living in Northbrook, Illinois. The two artists met in 1949, introduced to one another by Johnson’s romantic partner, sculptor Richard Lippold, then serving as an editor of the journal Dance Observer. “I was taken with her—,” Johnson wrote after visiting Shearer in Northbrook that summer. “Respected her so much because she seemed such a complete artist in every way. Completely in her art.” Johnson looked to Shearer not just as a model of artistic devotion, but also as a stimulus to his growing excitement about the world of dance and theater—interests that informed the works’ making as well as Johnson’s decision to set these collages in motion, sending them into the word via the mail and giving them social currency.

No two collages in the group are identical. Several feature recognizable figures, ranging from William Shakespeare to Marlon Brando. Nearly all feature fragments of handwritten text taken from the Tao Te Ching, the foundational text of Taoism, which Johnson may have discovered at Orientalia, the East Asian bookstore where he worked in these years. Johnson, who was broadly interested in East Asian religion, referred to these works as “Taoist collages.”


Currently Off View


AIC Archives


Ray Johnson


Untitled (Taoist Collages)


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.



Mixed media


Dimensions variable

Credit Line

Research Center Purchase Fund

Reference Number

Obj: 265559

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.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions