The Open Curriculum of the New York Correspondence School: Ray Johnson’s Pedagogical Mail Art

1960s: Days of Rage


“The New York Correspondence School is an alternative social network formed by the artist Ray Johnson who encouraged artists, friends, acquaintances, and strangers to share their art through the postal system. Johnson began sending aestheticized mail to his friends as a teenager in the 1940s, a practice he continued to develop while studying at Black Mountain College, and by the 1950s, these mailings, often called ‘mail art,’ had become a major aspect of Johnson’s work as an artist. In 1962, Ed Plunkett, one of Johnson’s correspondents, named the international network of participants ‘The New York Correspondence School’ (NYCS), a play on ‘The New York School’ of abstract expressionist painters. Johnson’s mailings to the NYCS turned forms of communication and education into artistic media in personal letters, mass-produced flyers, absurd packages, and everything in between. While a multiplicity of reoccurring images and references appear in Johnson’s work, from animals such as…

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