Vincent Johnson: Great Photographs of Los Angeles, 2001 – 2005

Santa Monica, 2005

This is one of my personal all-time favorite photos, which I took in Santa Monica one morning a while back.

What I love about it is that it captures the concrete reality and the ephemeral at once. It shows an image of California that one can actually experience here when driving, which is that the road in front of you has disappeared or ends abruptly.  It also recalls the theme of solid and air, density and atmospheric. All of the man-made signs, street markings and street signs, street lamps, speak of an effort to create the possibility of order. The rising, undulating street appears to possibly be a bridge rising to allow ships to pass underneath it. Yet the movement is illusory. Life is both real and a dream.

Private home, Pasadena, California, 2005g

In the year 2001 I returned to my project that began in 1995, of photographing Los Angeles, without concern to subject. I would merely take pictures of any and everything I found visually intriguing. Between 1995 and 2007 I would take over 25,000 photographs in the Los Angeles region. I began to categorize the works over time, and then to focus on particular areas, such as Los Angeles vernacular architecture, and photographing LA at night.

I am currently going through my archive. I’ll post more photographs as time allows.

City park, Santa Monica, California, 2005

Parked Cadillac, Los Angeles, 2005

Under the Hollywood Downtowner neon sign, Hollywood, California, 2005

Adventurer motel, near LAX Airport, Los Angeles, 2005

Royal Roost, named after the legendary jazz club in NYC, South Central Los Angeles, 2005

Bitter Redhead bar, Santa Monica, California, 2005

Liquor store, San Fernando Valley, California, 2005

Valley Ho Liquor store, Van Nuys, California

Strip club billboard sign, Van Nuys

Automotive parts store, Van Nuys

Drapery store, San Fernando Valley

Jolly Jug liquor store, North Hollywood

Roofstack, South Central Los Angeles

Night street light, Los Angeles

Motel Tangiers, San Fernando Valley

Market Sign from 1950's Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley

Streetlamp, MacArthur Park, Los Angeles

Parked black Two-tone Thunderbird, Van Nuys

Mansfield Motel and Movie Billboard, Los Angeles

Six Months Crenshaw gallery space, Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles. He has recently been named a 2010 United States Artists Project artist.

The USA site went live on December 7, 2010

My initial project is to fabricate a 3 foot tall doll house sized sculpture of the collapsed William Livingstone House in Detroit. The project description and a video presentation of the project are at the links provided here:
http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/user/vincentjohnson
http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/project/william_livingstone_house_detroit
Please feel free to review the site and to contact others who would be interesting in supporting the program and my project.
thanks so much
Vincent Johnson
Los Angeles, California
cell: 818:430.1604
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Vincent Johnson: Vernacular Architecture project (Los Angeles and Texas)

Booker's Del Hi

Vincent Johnson’s Artist statement from 2005 on Vernacular architecture project:

Ritz Motel in Living Color

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.

Car and leaves

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.

Hollywood station wagon

Neon Vacancy

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.

Poet's House

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.

Studio Self Storage

Vincent Johnson

Lake Balboa, California

4.12.05

The Five Signs of Deano's

Circus Liquor Parking Lot

Air-Conditioned Motel

Stein on Vine

Smashed Catalina

Painted Structure, Odessa

West Texas Ice Cream Parlor

Beach City Chevrolet

Copa West

Southern Gents Club

Furst Motel

Furst Motel

Vincent Johnson on his Vernacular architecture project, 2005

The nature and form of my work is investigative and analytical. Each photograph in my body of work combines a commanding visual poetics with a documentary and literary sensibility. Visual movement enthralls me. By degrees my eyes now take in photographs of the commercial vernacular architectural history of Los Angeles. My work is driven both by a radical reader’s intensity – which is, my profound desire to continue read and to know the world through its myriad night forms and daylight appearances. I am both an image-maker and producer of fiction and of fact, in language and in vision. My project is expansive and expanding, from the old interior corridors of the first avenues of Los Angeles, roaming outwards to the edge locals of the region – Riverside, San Bernardino County, San Diego.

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Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles. He has recently been named a 2010 United States Artists Project artist.

The USA site went live on December 7, 2010

My initial project is to fabricate a 3 foot tall doll house sized sculpture of the collapsed William Livingstone House in Detroit. The project description and a video presentation of the project are at the links provided here:
http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/user/vincentjohnson
http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/project/william_livingstone_house_detroit
Please feel free to review the site and to contact others who would be interesting in supporting the program and my project.
thanks so much
Vincent Johnson
Los Angeles, California
cell: 818:430.1604

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LANYArtiststudio@gmail.com

Biography July 2010
Vincent Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Las Cienegas Projects, LAXART, the P.S. 1. Museum, the SK Stiftung, Cologne, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen, the Sacramento Center for Contemporary Art, 18th Street Arts, Santa Monica and the Boston University Art Gallery. His photographic works engage both significant and neglected historical and contemporary cultural artifacts and is based on intensive research of his subjects. Upcoming is a group show at the Kellogg Museum of Cal Poly Pomona, a one person show in Copenhagen, a one person show at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a one person show at Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles.
Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997. He studied with Mike Kelly, Jack Goldstein, Stephen Prina, Liz Larner, Chris Williams, Mayo Thompson (formerly of Art&Language), and Liz Larner. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated 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 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.
LANYArtiststudio@gmail.com
Vincent  Johnson
Artist Statement
Vincent Johnson’s work is a form of sustained cultural mining that explores the depths of his subjects. His photographic works created from 2001-2007 delved into architecture as fantasy, from the vernacular architecture of Los Angeles to that found throughout the American West. He has documented several of the no longer extant commercial vernacular structures in both South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that came into existence during the birth of long distance family travel by car. In 2007 he presented a fully fabricated work of sculpture – a 12 foot long six-foot high replica of a 1956 Chrysler Air Raid Siren. This project developed as he was both researching and documenting a former military corridor in the San Fernando Valley that included a retired military airfield. His newest photographic works, all created in 2008 and 2009, are large-scale photographic montages, each of  which confront significant cultural figures and several dramatic signal events of Cold War era Western cultural history, including Television, the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet Space program, American home-based bomb shelter  program, and Vietnam. He is working on large-scale photomontages of the several major American political figures of 1960’s, including Martin Luther King, the Kennedy family, and Malcolm X, as well the representations of both Communism and Capitalism, Hollywood and Los Angeles and many related Cold War era subjects. Johnson’s photomontages can take several months to create as he captures hundreds of images from online sources, before selecting those which most well index a particular historical moment, personage or event. The creative juxtapositions and scale shifts of the found images is what he most relies on to develop his potent and illuminating photographic works.

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