How To Draw A Bunny


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ray Johnson was a contemporary of Andy Warhol, yet he remains largely forgotten, despite producing a raft of work from collages to performance art and the all-important bunnies of the title.

John Walter's debut feature starts with the end of Johnson - his suicide in 1995 - and presents interviews with people who knew him, ranging from Gerry Ayres and Roy Lichtenstein to his mailman and a cop who only came to know him through death.

"Everyone had a story but nobody knew the whole Ray Johnson," says the police officer. It is debatable whether we know much more once these stories are told.

Walter has certainly gone to lengths to get people to talk, but while they all seem agreed that Johnson was a generous and genuine sort, who had a penchant for sending art to everyone through the post, it is clear that even his former partners never really worked out what made him tick.

Walter has set himself an incredibly difficult task. He is trying to show us a side of a man who is largely unknown to all but a few art fans. The clever use of black-and-white interview sessions contrasts neatly with colour footage of Johnson himself, lending him a vibrancy which he undeniably possessed.

Ultimately, however, How To Draw A Bunny is at its most interesting when the interviewees let slip little details about what it was like to be a modern artist living in Manhattan during Warhol's heyday - how his studio was set up, how one of the artists kept an ocelot for a pet and the incestuous nature of the artwork produced. These glimpses leave you hankering for more, as if the introspective Johnson gets in the way of the bigger picture.

Although an interesting insight into the culture, Walter presents no lasting image of the man. One of his closest friends says Johnson was "indifferent to the machinations of life."

Sadly, this documentary leaves you feeling somewhat indifferent, too.

Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2002
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Profile of enigmatic pop artist.
Amazon link

Director: John Walter

Year: 2001

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


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