Johnson’s innovativeness spread to many areas. In America on Pop Art Suzi Gablik credited Johnson with performing the “first informal happening” before his work moved into “Correspondance” (mail) art, books, graphic design and sculpture.
In the 40's he worked at the Orientalia Bookstore in the Lower East Side where he began to deepen his understanding of Zen philosophy and to employ "chance" in his work. Both of these interests increasingly informed his collages, performances, and mail art. In 1948, Johnson's worked predominately with geometric abstractions. By 1953 he turned to collage. By 1954, Johnson had begun making what he called "moticos;" cut out, pasted, and otherwise altered collages composed of images drawn from popular culture including magazine advertisements, posters, and other photographs.
I'm an artist and a well, I shouldn't call myself a poet but other people have. What I do is classify the words as poetry. Something Else Press published a book in 1965 called the Paper Snake which is all my writings, rubbings, plays, things that I had given to Dick Higgins, editor and publisher, which I mailed to him or brought to him in cardboard boxes or shoved under his door, or left in his sink, or whatever, over a period of years. He saved all these things, designed and published a book, and I simply did what I did without classification. So when the book appeared the book stated, "Ray Johnson is a poet," but I never said, 'this is a poem,' I simply wrote what I wrote and it later became classified.