An intriguing look into J. Johnson Gallery’s collection
A playful, ecstatic display, the upcoming exhibition at J. Johnson Gallery – Winter Selections – incorporates sculpture, printmaking, photography and painting. The exhibition at once offers an overview of the gallery’s stable of artists (and thereby its history) while also introducing some new faces. Artists include Grey Malin, Slomotion, Craig Kaths, Ryan McGinness, Mark Messersmith, Carlos Betancourt, and Chris Roberts-Antieau. Whisking viewers into a joyous, colorful transversal of styles and mediums, the show conjures another world, one of the anomalous and the symbiotic, the electric and the tranquil.
What are the common threads? McGinness, Betancourt, and Malin, as well as Anne Karin Furunes and Wendy Wischer, all present works that contain repetitive forms and use of pattern to create their own visual language. In McGinness’s work Untitled (Peripheral Drift Illusion) pop iconography is used to create patterns and illusion. There are motifs of lost innocence and echoes of naïve art in works by Chris Roberts-Antineau, Mark Messersmith, Andrew Korzer-Robinson, and Slomotion. In contrast, Craig Kaths and Julie York both create austere worlds that delve into the effects of modern technology and mechanical processes. In Kath’s case, these processes are specifically related to sound technologies – dissecting the parts of analog-based electrical sound gear in his screenprints, Sixteen Bit One and Sixteen Bit Two. While Christa Bowden and Wendy Wischer use organic forms created with elemental processes (encaustic and burning paper, respectively) to inform a discourse regarding the natural world. In Wischer’s Sunspot Diaries, the artist makes representations of constellations by burning paper with a magnifying glass and sunlight. In this way the artist can conceptually “capture” light in its most elemental process, creating a space to explore light’s physical and existential role.
Other works will send your thoughts spinning off in alternative directions: into the history of printmaking (Henri Matisse), the varied methodologies and aesthetics of contemporary painting (Emilio Perez and James Bohary), and Greek and Roman mythology and their encompassing dialectics (Andrew Korzer-Robinson). And lastly, work by Gray Malin and Chris Roberts-Antieau, both being exhibited at J. Johnson for the first time, prompt meditations on life and its beauty with two very disparate and fascinating perspectives.
Gray Malin, an L.A.-based photographer, graduated from Emerson College with a degree in photography and marketing. His work has been exhibited in the Dallas Museum of Art, David Streets Gallery in Beverly Hills, and Gallery 825 of the Los Angeles Art Association. In his photographs Malin searches for (and finds) beauty the world over, capturing breathtaking landscapes (often beach scenes) from a helicopter. The resulting photos and their gem-like hues are sun-soaked and almost impossibly perfect. Fittingly, Malin’s work has been featured in fashion magazines like Elle and he has collaborated with David LaChappelle, whose photographs also blur the boundary between commercial and fine art photography. The pieces being featured at J. Johnson Gallery are largely from his Malin’s La Plage series. Barcelona Beach Umbrellas (2014) captures the aerial view of a packed section of a beach in Barcelona, where brightly colored towels and lounge chairs vie for space between white beach umbrellas. The image is arresting, at once for its National Geographic-like perspective as for its wonderfully saturated colors. In another Malin work, Chicago Harbor, boats in the Chicago harbor are seen from the same aerial view. Anchored and covered in blue and green tarps, they float like toy boats in a dazzling expanse of emerald water. The peaceful scene is cut by the wake of a moving boat, navigating out of the harbor. Says the artist, “A simple beach or pool becomes a blank canvas that allows me to start seeing the world as art.” Indeed many of his photos incorporate this idea of beach, water, or endless horizon as background, to be juxtaposed against the flurry of color and activity happening on the ‘canvas’ it creates.
Far from Malin’s manicured beaches, Chris Robert-Antieau’s “fabric paintings” delve into another view of the beauty of life. Antieau creates heartwarming scenes that transform the everyday and the mundane with humor and whimsy. Her fabric vignettes are created through the use of fabric applique – the process of cutting fabric into shapes, then layering these pieces on a fabric background to create a collaged image. The pieces are then sewn to the background. These homey and sometimes whimsical scenes often revolve around the trials and tribulations of the family dog or cat, as in Tree Climber, depicting two cats mischievously climbing up an ornamented Christmas tree. Antieau-Roberts, born in Brighton, Michigan in 1950, is a self-taught artist. She has been working in fabric applique since 1987, and is collected nationally and internationally. Her work is included in the collections of Oprah Winfrey, John Waters, Lyle Lovett, Senator Sam Nunn, and Bill Clinton and has been exhibited at the American Visionary Museum.
In shows like Winter Selections, we see the tantalizing tips of immense artistic icebergs, representative pieces that open us up to the multitude of talent and ideas that surround us. Each of these artists has a unique visual language: from the minutiae of Craig Kath’s mechanically- minded prints, to the aggressive swaths of paint in Bohary’s abstractions, and the glossy, saturated world of Gray Malin, their works all offer us a new understanding of the multiple and vital ways there are to see this world of ours.
Article written by: Adelaide Corey-Disch
Winter Selections runs thru Jan. 9.
J. Johnson Gallery, 177 4th Ave. N., Jacksonville Beach, www.jjohnsongallery.com, 435-3200.