Johnson Road Projects presents Los Angeles-based artist Vincent Johnson’s dazzling color photographs shot in Los Angeles and Detroit + essay

Johnson Road Projects Summer 2015 Exhibition: A Selection of Vincent Johnson’s Color Photography 2001-2015

Johnson Road Projects presents Los Angeles-based artist Vincent Johnson’s dazzling color photographs shot in Los Angeles and Detroit. The artist has lived in LA for several years and most recently gone to Detroit on three photography trips to capture remarkable and startling images of Detroit in transformation.

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Neon Chain
Neon Chain

The Deville

Color TV by RCA - Los Angeles
Color TV by RCA – Los Angeles
Ritz Motel - Air Conditioned Rooms
Ritz Motel – Air Conditioned Rooms

V

Permanently Parked Ford Mercury - Detroit
Permanently Parked Ford Mercury – Detroit
Detroit Tire and Bush House.72dpi
Tire and House – Detroit
Mister Softie Truck Detroit.72dpi
Mister Softee Truck Detroit

Vincent Johnson’s Artist statement from 2005 on Photography:

My artistic practice is currently concerned with the production of an archive of digital photographic images of the remains of Los Angeles’ and Southern California’s vernacular architecture after the inception of the motel in the 1920’s through intriguing phase that delivered the fantasy of neon noir architecture of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Since the majority of this form of architectural history are in forlorn and neglected avenues of Los Angeles and beyond, I do not consider the project to be a form of cultural tourism, but an authentic investigation and concern that gives rise to a cultural document as history. On occasion I will also produce a photograph that documents the relationship between the 1950’s through the 1970’s car culture and California private residences.

I work in Los Angeles, which has an exceptional amount of interesting architectural artifacts from the First World War period onwards. Many portions of the Los Angeles that I depict come into existence when New York was attempting to wrest the thorn crown of painting from Paris and succeeded. In the course of producing my photographic archive, I have employed strategies of production such as those used by the flaneur and the derive, in day and at night, by car and on foot, primarily in a stark and challenging urban territory, the Anti-City that is Los Angeles. Similarly, I have also allowed myself to merely wander through this world as the American artist that I am, and fall into pictures and spaces that call for documentation.

It is my experience that driving a car in Los Angeles and seeing the world through its windows is a complex real-time cinematic event. There is a temporary encounter and an enduring intimacy through memory via the photographed subject – this produces the photograph, as versus a sustained relationship with a single but ever-changing street scene. Through auto travel one is given the privileged observer position of moving through the world as a real-time unedited film, a cinema-state; 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 mid-century and earlier that I will take pictures of in the future.

Despite the relative youth of Los Angeles cultural architectural properties from the mid-20th century and earlier, they are constantly vanishing from the physical landscape of the state, as the dead architecture and their signs are either demolished or their elegant features are almost erased. Part of my project is documentary in the recognition of this reality. At certain times and places in Southern California, merely by driving about, one can gain a very strong sense of the lifestyles of Los Angeles’ remarkable architectural past, in reinvented forms of openness to new possibilities, without external pressure, to fulfill the promise of the future.

Vincent Johnson

Lake Balboa, California
4.12.05

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JohnsonRoadProjects Summer 2015 exhibition: The Red, Green and Yellow Show by Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings - Orange Summer

The October Paintings – Orange Summer

The October Paintings - Grey Sea

The October Paintings – Grey Sea

The October Paintings - Red Bottle in Green

The October Paintings – Red Bottle in Green

https://johnsonroadprojects.wordpress.com/

JohnsonRoadProjects is the new artist run space and curatorial inquiry by Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson

Vincent Johnson’s The Red, Green and Yellow Show at Johnson Road Projects in Los Angeles – Summer 2015 exhibition

Art Aragon Golden Boy Bail Bonds
Art Aragon Golden Boy Bail Bonds, color photograph by Vincent Johnson
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The Green Bug (2010), color photograph by Vincent Johnson
The Deville
Deville Motel Downtown Los Angeles (2002), color photograph by Vincent Johnson
SouthernGentsPClub
Southern Gents Private Club (South Central Los Angeles) (2002), color photograph by Vincent Johnson
NyHostel4
New York Hostel Kitchen (2003), color photograph by Vincent Johnson
IMG_1750
LA artist Vincent Johnson
 IMG_5827
Miami Beach Public Telephone (2014), color photograph by Vincent Johnson
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Figueroa Hotel Parking Sign (2013), color photograph by Vincent Johnson

Welcome to the 2015 summer exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist and writer Vincent Johnson at Johnson Road Projects in Los Angeles. Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Painting and Critical Theory from Art Center College of Design. His work has been exhibited in major institutions in the U.S., Germany, Canada and Portugal. His work have been sold in art fairs in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Portland. Johnson’s works have been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Vincent Johnson most recently presented his research on Belgian Congo copal painting media at Theaster Gates Black Artist Retreat [B.A.R] in Chicago. Johnson also recently interviewed artist William Pope L. at his nine part exhibition at MOCA in Los Angeles for FROG magazine.

This thematic exhibition is curated from the artist’s extensive body of works and is based solely upon the presence of the colors red/or green and/or yellow being found in the works. The exhibition includes both photographs and paintings that engage and capture iconic objects found in the American urban landscape. Each work appears to embody one of the three primary colors named in the exhibition’s title. The exhibition provides exposure to the works of these artists across the span of three months; additional works will be added to the exhibition over the duration of the show.

Seeing Art through Picasso’s studio – An African-American Conceptual Artist’s consideration

Pablo Picasso in his Cannes studio, 1956. Photograph: Arnold Newman/Getty Images

This collection of photos was gathered by myself to give me a fresh look at Picasso as a man and to think through his cultural production, specifically when he created works of art based on captured and sold African Art. Entire libraries have been written about Picasso’s work. As as African-American Conceptual artist in Los Angeles, who is now embarking on the production of paintings for the first time in two decades, I feel compelled to consider the ramifications of myself creating paintings, knowing that Picasso created several that directly borrowed from captured African sculptures, then adapted their multidimensional perspectives and haunting imagery to produce works of High Modernism. It is only now in the 21st century that  even a small number of African-American artists have entered the artworld and been considered to be making considerable aesthetic achievements in painting, yet African-Americans have painted in and out of America (see Henry Tanner in 19th century Paris) for well over a hundred years. We know the power of painting – from its capacity to represent – to its capacity to represent nothing other than its own existence, yet be revered as the greatest of all possible human cultural achievements. What I have already mentioned here comes to mind every time I look at a contemporary African-American artist working in paint. In my mind ideas whirl about what it means to be a full-blooded American, whose people have lived through great trauma, and who now in the 21st  century are being invited to take part in the upper strata of international society through the production of our art. This art gets categorized as coming from an African-American perspective, but that worldview is never clearly laid out. What is never said is that the exceptionally well-educated African-American artist is no different from his counterparts who are educated at world-class French technique cooking schools. To learn painting is to study the history of Italian painting and French painting, and to know that the worlds that painting were born and represented have transformed more than once, from being objects for the church to erect images of God and his son and flock, to becoming a tool of phenomenal representational power of the emotional world of a human being in the West. African-American artists know this and embrace it, just as jazz  musicians embraced Western musical instruments and tonal systems, then overlaid them with specific, masterful musical narratives that had never found voice before in Africans in America culture. Yet we as artists are not starting out in 1890 or 1907 or 1940 or 1968 and the world has changed in ways we would have never imaged, both good and not. The similarity today with jazz is that there are no requisite notes to be played, no certain and absolute way of creation, and the doors have been blown off of the Conceptual Art world whereby now every form is salient and relevant. The self-assumed hierarchy of Conceptual Art, which imaged itself to be a superior form of intellectual life, remains today often without producing an image that was as sound as the philosophical argument that stood in the work’s defense. Today the artist’s world is expanding as fast as the universe once did, yet it is in this maelström of disbelief and new realities, than the most savory elements and aspects of contemporary art is being born. So, farewell for now, I have several new paintings to impress my imagination upon as a global  citizen living in the United States of America.

Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles

View of the painting ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso in his studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, illustration from ‘Verve’, no.1, December 1937 (b/w photo)

Image ID: CHT 253093

View of the painting 'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso in his studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, illustration from 'Verve', no.1, December 1937 (b/w photo)

Credit: View of the painting ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso in his studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, illustration from ‘Verve’, no.1, December 1937 (b/w photo), Maar, Dora (1907-97) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet / The Bridgeman Art Library

Book cover: Picasso’s collection of African & Oceanic Art

Picasso with still camera

Picasso in studio, wearing a suit

Michael Sima, “Picasso and Samuel Kootz in Picasso’s Studio”, Paris, 1947 . Photograph. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Provided by Yale University Art Gallery

Brassai’s photo of a gathering at Picasso’s studio. Left to Right: Ortiz de Zarate, Francoise Gilot, Fenosa, Jean Marais, Pierre Reverdy, Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Brassai himself, at Picasso’s atelier in the Rue des Grands-Augustins on the Left Bank in Paris

Brassaï’s In Picasso’s Studio, Rue des Grands Augustins, 1939
Picture: Brassaï Estate – RMN

“Picasso, Villa Californie, Cannes 1957” (photograph by Andre Villers)
Picasso’s Southern France Villa Californie studio was his last place of work before the artist’s death. Home to some of Picasso’s radical late-career experiments, the space was stuffed with knick-knacks, totems and canvases.

Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 1, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson – in studio
http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com
Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and 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, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

Abstract Painting and Freedom

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Remind me of the fact that Abstract picture making, or the making of abstract paintings, is the highest level of freedom for the artist. The fact of the matter is that Abstraction frees the artist from having to represent anyone or anything, for any reason, from the political to the ego mania of portraiture. Abstraction is itself the site of freedom. The artist is free to explore every internal idea – whether it be the nature of existence itself, the meaning of life or merely the majesty of the infinite materiality of paint, as explored by artists as wide-ranging in painterly concerns as Jack Whitten, Amy Sillman, John McLaughlin and Gerhard Richter. It was none other than the United States of America’s government itself that both shadowed, foretold, broadcast and shipped out to the world Abstract Painting in America, in the form of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the post-war period. Abstraction was viewed as the visual equivalent of jazz, where there were no set rules, where free improvisation was the rule and never the exception. Jazz influenced Abstract Painting, from its fluidity of thought and language play, to its flights of genius in brushstrokes. Abstract Painting in the form of Abstract Expressionism recognized it would not want to compete with the direct bloodline of European painting history. So it took from painting and started a completely new road, one full of American flash and fire, with jazz in both the foreground and background, listened to live at night and in the studio by daylight. Abstract Expressionism removed itself from European easel painting, which had removed itself from painting for and in the church.  So in a new land and with a new plan painting burst forth with a vibrancy and native intelligence and energy that has caused it to not only rise up, but also withstand the difficult hours when painting became to be viewed as a lessor form of analytical engagement. This lasted for a brief while in terms of the reality of the life of things. Now painting has been elevated as it again has large numbers of the most intellectually engaged artists working it the medium. Do not forget that paint today is by a creation of science, yet its materials come from the earth and allow both woman and man to create and recreate the world – in their own image, or in the case of Abstraction, in images that explore every available manner of thinking about reality and existence itself, by being both mirror and presenter of philosophical truths.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting: The Storm (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting, Snow White/White Snow (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson, Nine Grayscale Paintings, Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles, (2001). Oil on canvas. Each panel is 20×24 inches.

photograph of silver paint on my hands in studio, Los Angeles, during the creation of Nine Grayscale paintings.

Vincent Johnson – in Los Angeles studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings, 2011

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com
Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and 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, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

Bearden Time, Collage for The Bearden Project – Studio Museum in Harlem

Bearden Time, cutout collage by Vincent Johnson (2011). This work was created in my studio in September of 2011 for the Studio Museum in Harlem's "The Bearden Project." I researched into how Romare Bearden created his magnificent collages, then decided to use some of his techniques combined with those of my own. Bearden would score, scratch, and cut into his images. The large red central figure in this work was created using a type of paper that I had used over 15 years ago to create portraits by removing the shiny slick color surface with an exacto knife. I also used the knife's point to draw into the paper and remove some of the materials. It felt good getting back to some of the work I had done well into my past but had stopped. In this instance I did not want to do an overall collage that used every part of the surface. I wanted to convey something of the mood of New York when I was a student, and had heard that Romare Bearden had a studio on Canal Street. I imagined it was not far away from Pearl Paint.

Here is my Bearden Time collage standing up while I photograph it with my iphone to be able to send an image to the museum of the completed work. I used everything from soap to wet clothes to brillo pads to work the surface. I fixed the images to the paper using Nova Gel. I then painted completely over each image with the NOVA GEL to force the photo paper to adhere to the paper's surface. The outer photos are created by doing a doll-like cutout from a magazine, then I cut into the printed photo papers using the cutout as a basic guide but allowing me to go in any direction I so choose.

Vincent Johnson, Bearden Time (2011), The Bearden Project, Studio Museum in Harlem. The exhibition will be at the Studio Museum for four months!

It was fun doing this piece and it has inspired me to do several more. I had already done a few montages starting in 2008 using found images. Using Bearden’s techniques opened the door for me to use my oldest skill sets that are now coming back into my work as never before. In September of this year I produced my first body of new paintings in well over a decade. And they are abstract grayscale paintings, something that I would have never done in the past. I’ve been working with photography over the past decade and produced one large-scale sculptural work based on a 12 foot long 1950’s Chrysler Air Raid Siren and was part of a five artist team that created a 58 foot long sculptural simulation of Brancusi’s Endless Column crashing into the museum’s gallery.

If you’d like to check out more of my work go here to this link:

http://vincentjohnsonart.com/

Bearden Time, detail (1 of 4)

Bearden Time, detail (2 of 4)

Bearden Time, detail (3 of 4)

Bearden Time, (4 of 4)

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