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How to Draw a Bunny

4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

How to Draw a Bunny attempts to both unravel the enigma of artist Ray Johnson's elusive personality and restore him to his rightful place in the pantheon of 20th century American art. An artist whose collages bridged dada and pop art, Johnson occupied a respected if obscure corner of the visual art world. Upon his suicide off Long Island in 1995, he left his friends and associates with a bounty of work and more questions than answers about the man behind such works as "Untitled (Joseph Cornell Just a Face)." Through interviews with subjects from Christo to the sheriff who investigated his suicide, this documentary serves its subject best when it allows the camera to linger on Johnson's work. Those unfamiliar with Johnson's sometimes cartoonish reappropriations of advertising iconography may marvel in much the same way viewers of Basquiat did a decade ago. Here was an artist who transformed every act of his life—even his highly orchestrated death—into a work of art. From letters to canvases to a pair of shoes, Ray Johnson used the world as his medium to create objects of wonder.

How to Draw a Bunny grates on occasion, especially with so many shots of brushes tapping a snare drum and swirling shots of artworks when a static image would have sufficed. Cinematic tics notwithstanding, the film is a loving introduction to a contemporary of Lichtenstein and Warhol who arguably achieved the sublimity—but not the notoriety—of his peers. --Ryan Boudinot


Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Joseph Ialacci, Richard Feigen, Frances Beatty, Mort Janklow, Janet Giffra
  • Directors: John W. Walter
  • Producers: Frances Beatty, Andrew L. Moore, John Malkovich, Kevin J. Foxe, Lianne Halfon
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Live / Artisan
  • DVD Release Date: September 21, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002J58FQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,785 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "How to Draw a Bunny" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
On Friday, January 13th, 1995, Ray Johnson checked into a Sag Harbor hotel, drove to the 7-11, then walked to the Sag Harbor Bridge, where he jumped to his death. This action, like most of his life, was foreshadowed by a number of clues, numerical coincidences and puns. When police entered his house, they found, among his belongings, a complex suicide note presented as a box full of small, beautiful collages. When they started investigating, the stories told by people who knew him each seemed to describe a different individual. This film is a quest to discover more about the mystery that was Ray.

I saw this film at Film Forum in NYC and it's criminal that it didn't receive wider distribution. Ray Johnson lived his life as a performance piece, improvising puns and jokes into everything he did. His artworks are complex zen riddles with punchlines, with collaged paper sanded like round rocks, all put together with elmer's glue. He was the eternal prankster, and the wonderful interviews relate many "Ray stories" from the likes of his art dealer, patrons and fellow artists (including Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Chuck Close, and Christo). Far from being someone who tried to become famous, he worked to avoid it, shunning publicity and pranking the art world, and mailing his work out for free to people around the world. I was one of those people.

The film is brilliantly assembled, hilarious at times, and absorbing... and the Max Roach score is a great bonus (complete with some footage of Max playing the drums). If you are interested in art and love a good story, this film is for you.
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Format: DVD
A fascinating look inside the New York art scene and the predecessor class to Warhol. I confess that I knew absolutely nothing about this artist before watching this documentary, and yet I couldn't get enough of it. Truly a man who lived his life as art. And his death? That's the central guessing game of this film, and it makes for a captivating and vaguely haunting biopic.
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The subject of this film is a lesser-known artist Ray Johnson, who was an extremely private person. While he knew everyone in the New York pop art scene, no one knew him very well at all.

Moreover, in the documentary, at least, he seldom seems to sell a work of art, yet all he does is create art. He became a constant presence in the New York art scene from the early 1950's till his suicide in 1995. He is credited with creating the first happenings when he displayed his collages on a city street. He began to concentrate on creating elaborate collages.

He is so shy about his art that even as his friends, maybe all his friends, get shows at well-known galleries and even at the Museum of Modern Art, he never allows MOMA's curators to judge whether to admit his works to the museum's collection. Instead, he mails his art to many friends, collectors and MOMA's library. The library, as is its custom, duly catalogs and keeps the mailed art. In that way, he gets in the back door of the museum.

So when his friend Chuck Close wants a piece by Ray exhibited in Close's own exhibit at the museum, the MOMA library shows the "mail art" that Ray sent.

His address book is a Who's Who of modern art: Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Christo, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol. All these artists knew and respected Ray Johnson and his work.

His house was a living space unfurnished except for shelves and shelves of his art works: small collages which he called moticos, drawings and paintings.

The film does not solve the puzzle of Ray Johnson, but it certainly presents what anyone knows of this oddly private artist. In fact, he was known as "the most famous unknown artist in the world."
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Granted I'm biased, but buy this film now. This documentary changed my life. I knew nothing about Ray Johnson before seeing this doc and now almost not a day goes by that I don't think about him or his work at least once.
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Format: DVD
Pop artist, prankster, and provocateur extraordinaire, Ray Johnson (1928-1995) had many acquaintances, but to a person no one claimed to know who he really was. His life, his death from suicide, and his prolific work were a single, seamless performance act. This documentary interviews curators, his agent, collectors, the police that investigated his death, his first cousin, fellow artists like Christo, and even, appropriately, his mail carrier (Johnson mailed thousands of pieces of his "mail art" to people around the world). The same semantic range of words emerges from them all -- enigmatic, elusive, isolated, underground, and mysterious. In one "work" he dropped sixty foot long hot dogs from a helicopter. In another, we see him hopping around on one foot as he beats a cardboard box with a belt. "He kept so much of himself to himself," remarked one person. "No one ever seemed to know what he did, or what he thought he was doing," observed another. But upon his death a veritable treasure trove of Johnson's work surfaced--paintings, drawings and especially mixed media collages pasted on the cardboard inserts of laundried shirts (he once told a friend he did "chop art" and not "pop art"). The film, much of which is shot in black and white, begins and ends with consideration of his theatrical death on Friday, January 13th, 1995. His body was found floating under a bridge in Sag Harbor, New York, by buoy number 13. The night before Johnson had stayed in room #247 (= 13) of a motel. He was 67 (= 13). A few days later people discovered his house meticulously staged with transparent clues. Johnson was clearly an extraordinary and eccentric genius, once referred to in the The New York Times as the "most famous unknown artist." His works which spanned nearly 50 years are now exhibited in museums around the world.
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