J. Johnson Gallery begins the new year with Black | White, an exhibition of works by over FIFTEEN artists in a variety of mediums.
In contrast to the Jacksonville Beach gallery’s previous show, which presented work by younger artists, Black | White centers on paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures created by artists who have been significant in shaping the contemporary art scene for decades. The opening reception on Friday, January 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. has been designed to benefit MOCA Jacksonville, a private nonprofit visual arts and educational institution in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. All donations collected at the door ($10 donation per person) during J. Johnson Gallery’s Black | White opening will support exhibitions and programming at MOCA Jacksonville.
Marking the second exploration of black and white at J. Johnson Gallery, this show was timed to coincide with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s WHITE exhibition (which opens to museum members the following Friday, January 23.) Because both the sales gallery and the museum are committed to enhancing an appreciation of modern and contemporary art, this is a natural partnership, although the works at the Jacksonville Beach gallery are available for collectors to acquire.
Why black and white? Removing pigments from the equation allows artists to hone in on composition, light, rhythm, and the elements of art. The stark contrast between black and white lends a timeless elegance to these bold, yet refined, works.
James Nares, a British-born artist with paintings included in both Jacksonville exhibitions opening in January, presented a solo show last year at Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. He is recognized for his lyrical strokes produced with signature hand-crafted brushes. Like Nares, Qin Feng places emphasis on brush as object, also fashioning his own (by transforming items like mops into bristles). Feng synthesizes Eastern and Western cultures using materials like ink, tea, and coffee in his meditative, calligraphic paintings. The Chinese artist, who has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a trio of monoprints in Black | White.
Two large paintings by Los Angeles artist Robert Greene, represented by Robert Miller Gallery for over twenty-five years, are also featured in the Jacksonville Beach exhibition. Greene’s painterly construction/deconstruction and precise mark-making is evidenced in both oils on paper, which are mounted onto aluminum. Greene’s work can be found in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of Art, and the artist was commissioned to create site-specific art for Peter Marino-designed Chanel boutiques worldwide. (Marino, a cross-discipline artist himself, recently made a splash during Art Basel Miami Beach with his solo show at the Bass Museum of Art.)
Four works by Pablo Boneu (hailing from the same Mexican City gallery as noted J. Johnson gallery sculptor Javier Marín) are an intriguing addition. On gallery director Bruce Dempsey’s most recent trip to Mexico City, he stumbled across Boneu’s work: “I rounded the corner and was struck by this highly inventive work,” Dempsey recalls. “I had never seen anything like it.” The Argentinian artist manually manipulates analogue photographs printed on thread and incorporates
materials like wooden overlays, tendrils of hemp, and velvet. There is an interplay between foreground and background with these three-dimensional wall works, which bring to mind Lucio Fontana’s slash paintings. Boneu’s pieces reference handcrafted cultural traditions and provide social commentary, though the artist’s message is intentionally vague. “What is most important to me in these works is not quite what they show, but that which remains hidden,” says Boneu. “Even when analyzed in detail, they do not bring about any certainties.”
New York artist Polly Apfelbaum created Dogwood Alley from handmade cross sections of dogwood trunks and branches collected from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Each block is inked and placed by the artist before making one pass through the etching press to create a monoprint. Another female artist honoring nature through her art is Georgia Marsh, who dances the line between representation and abstraction in her set of four exquisite etchings.
A pair of aquatints, Smoke Rings, and Black Flowers in a Vase by minimalist printer, painter, and sculptor Donald Sultan are also included in Black | White, while another Donald with a career in the arts four decades strong (Baechler, to be specific) is represented by his signature floral motifs and dense black contours. Baechler’s suite of six flowers, stenciled onto wonderfully thick and puckered handmade paper, is boldly complemented in the exhibition by a striking seven-foot tall flat bronze plant by the artist. Another sculptor included in the Jacksonville Beach show is late Russian artist Louise Nevelson. A pair of cast paper reliefs, one black and one white, as well as a cast polyester resin multiple (an intimately-scaled version of the artist’s monumental monochromatic sculptures) are important additions to Black | White. Other artists represented in the exhibition include Pat Steir, Sol Lewitt, George Condo, Alfred Leslie and Francesco Clemente, who became the youngest person to have a full-museum retrospective at the Guggenheim at age forty-seven.
This monochromatic collection, a start contrast to the enchanting colorful paintings of Yolanda Sanchéz which will fill the Jacksonville Beach gallery this spring, is on view through March 13.
J. Johnson Gallery’s benefit opening for Black | White takes place on Friday, January 16 from 6–8 p.m. The public is invited to attend with a $10 per person donation to MOCA Jacksonville at the door. 177 4th Avenue North, Jacksonville Beach, 904-435-3200, www.jjohnsongallery.com.
Article written by Wesley Gibbon