The present lot is from the collection of Diane di Prima, an artist and poet who was one of the founding members of the Beat movement in Greenwich Village in the 1950s. Di Prima lived a few blocks away from Johnson on the Lower East Side in the late 1950s. Below is an account from di Prima on how she came to acquire this early work:
We'd hang out and talk--Ray was very playful: lots of puns and word-play. He'd sometimes serve herb tea. Much of the time, a visit would culminate with Ray giving me one or more of his recent collages....Sometimes he'd have picked something out in advance and shyly—or slyly—pass it to me while we talked....Occasionally, we'd go out after that, and stroll around the city creating impromptu low-key "happenings"–. (Just doing odd things, really, some planned, some impromptu, to confound and confuse our more conventional fellow-New Yorkers).
As for this collage, I remember choosing it because of that image of a man with many arms out-stretched within a circle. I was reading a lot of alchemy texts, and it echoed ideas and images I was playing with at the time.