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Vincent Johnson: A Composition

February 2 - April 15, 2019


A Composition: A Solo Exhibition of Works by Vincent Johnson

February 2- April 15, 2019

Vincent Johnson is an intellectual. His intellectual pursuits have driven his work for over thirty years. Johnson is a painter, a photographer, a writer, and a scholar. So well-read in the works of nineteenth century French and American literature, he once amassed a collection of over four thousand rare books in these subjects and many others. The works he reads are as important and the work he creates.

Johnson, born in Cleveland, Ohio, began his career with a stint in the workforce and the military. He studied art history at Case Western Reserve University, then painting at Pratt in New York, then painting and cinema at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, and finally moved to California, to pursue his MFA at the Art Center in Pasadena. This Los Angeles-based artist has continued to study, research, and travel to support and feed his practice.

A Composition is the first exhibition to showcase Johnson’s photographs and paintings in the same space. It is a convergence of his painting and photography. It also reflects Johnson’s deep understanding of cinema, literature, and his vast knowledge of art history, all of which is ever present in his work. His abstract paintings show a layering of elements; color and texture, which is also evident in his photographs. His documentary photographs record the sites and architecture of Odessa, Texas to parts of southeast London and, the emphasis on color and texture continue from the former to the latter medium. His work echoes that of Walker Evans documentary photography and William Eggleston’s elevation of color photography, two of many great influences for Johnson.

Johnson composes his works as though they are synced with one another to create a single composition. In totality, it illuminates his never-ending pursuit to develop, record and complete. There is no timeline for completion, his works are an ongoing piece. There are no rules. Yet, there is an astute understanding of the processes and the techniques required to fully execute his vision.

Under no illusion of acceptance, Johnson has continued to create work that is a philosophical vision that comes from where we are now and not where he is now, or where African Americans are now. His vision is not indicative of race. He investigates and shares information through his work to let it serve as a vehicle for discussion. Aspiring to the likes of artist Frank Bowling and inspired by the likes of Charles Gaines, Johnson has developed his own social reality. Not defined as an African American artist making art about being African American, Johnson is an artist who seeks to know about as much of everything as possible, and connect with people who hold the knowledge he seeks. Knowing that above all, no matter how much he knows, one thing remains the same, he is still Black. He is still Vincent Johnson.

Johnson has been celebrated for his installation work, and work in other mediums, but most particularly for his photographs of Los Angeles. They have delighted viewers with their mastery of color, texture, narrative and the documentation of urban culture, and its evolution. The series of paintings on view show how Johnson has been able to strike a balance and continue the success he has achieved with his photography in his painting, to comprise A Composition.

ARTIST STATEMENTS: On his photographs and his painting, respectively:

“Through auto travel one is given the privileged observer position of moving through the world as a real­time unedited film, a cinema­state; to take a number of photographs of it afterwards. Often, when I drive, I look about and “remember” key images, photographs of urban sites from the mid­century and earlier that I will take pictures of in the future.”

“…I have always sought to reach for and produce imagery that lends itself to a serious consideration of the ideas that come to the mind when approaching the image. For me these works seek to substantiate themselves in the world, to be both evocative and provocative, beautiful and remarkable in both concept and realization. As these works are fully developed, I will continue to record the journey I am taking with them until they are complete.”

VINCENT JOHNSON received his MFA in Painting from Art Center in Pasadena, CA in 1997 and his BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1986. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in Artforum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America. Johnson’s work has appeared in numerous venues, including The Studio Museum in Harlem  PS1 Museum, New York; the SK Stiftung, Cologne; Santa Monica Museum of Art, LAXART; Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles; Boston University Art Museum; Kellogg Museum, Cal Poly Pomona; Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen; LemonskyProjects, Miami. Johnson’s work has been published in a dozen exhibition catalogs.  Palace of the Inquisition, Evora, Portugal, opening July 15, 2013. He is a work member of THE WINTER OFFICE, Copenhagen.