Ed Johnson at Kristi Engle and more

My friends, my friends, my friends,

There’s a painting show you should see. This is going to mean visiting the near east side but I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

Ed Johnson, "Devil Among the Tailors," 2011, oil on plexiglass 29" x 42"

Ed Johnson, "Devil Among the Tailors," 2011, oil on plexiglass 29" x 42"

Ed Johnson’s show at Kristi Engle did a bunch of things to my eyes and my brain. First off, I walked in expecting to see five paintings hanging pretty simply  on the walls. I’ve been looking at Johnson’s paintings since around 2003 – at Peter Bartlett’s old Hayworth Gallery and around town. He’s pretty consistent. In the past I had seen a small image field – 4″ x 6″ or so, in a larger white field of gessoed plexiglass. His imagery would be adapted from ‘hillbilly’ movies and from photographs. The clarity of these modest Smokey Mountain dramas would be diffused by several incidences of mediation – the original mediation of reality to picture, a ‘Hollywood’ sort of filter, and then Ed’s own screwing with the image by photographing several times using different low-fi technologies. Hmm. Ed can really render – the screwing that he does with his images I think for him provides some distance from craft and technical perfection. It all just fascinates me – I throw any distancing away and dive into  pleasure at  seeing such unsettled perfection. The labor it takes him to depict his images disappears in the flatness of his rendering.

Back to the five paintings on the walls right now. Johnson’s working methods haven’t altered, but his strategy for exhibiting the paintings has advanced and gotten riskier. And very satisfying.

Albert Pinkham-Ryder, "Dead Bird," n.d. oil on wood panel, 4 3/8" x 10 Phillips Collection, acquired 1928

Albert Pinkham-Ryder, "Dead Bird," n.d. oil on wood panel, 4 3/8" x 10 Phillips Collection, acquired 1928

Albert Pinkham-Ryder, "Moonlit Cove," n.d. oil on canvas, 4 1/8" x 17 1/8" Phillips Collection, acquired 1922

Albert Pinkham-Ryder, "Moonlit Cove," n.d. oil on canvas, 4 1/8" x 17 1/8" Phillips Collection, acquired 1922

Horace Pippin, "The Elk," 1945 Oil on canvas 18 1/8 x 22 13/16 in. Pneesylvania Academy of Fine Arts Bequest of David J. Grossman in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Grossman and Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Speiser

Horace Pippin, "The Elk," 1945 Oil on canvas 18 1/8 x 22 13/16 in. Pneesylvania Academy of Fine Arts Bequest of David J. Grossman in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Grossman and Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Speiser

George Bellows, "Hunter and Mountains" 1920 Oil on wood 18 x 22 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel W. Dietrich II

George Bellows, "Hunter and Mountains" 1920 Oil on wood 18 x 22 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel W. Dietrich II

While I was talking with Johnson at the gallery he mentioned, during a conversation about his slow approach to painting, admiring Albert Pinkham-Ryder for his unwillingness to complete a work. Perhaps this comes across as too emphatic – when I queried Ed on spending several years on half  a dozen paintings he laughed self depracatingly and shrugged and made the allusion to Pinkham-Ryder.

He also mentioned George Bellows and Horace Pippin. What he did not mention, and I guess there is no reason he would since these aren’t painters, are many of the early Minimalist sculptors. I’m thinking here of the second through the fourth rooms of Ann Goldstein’s Minimal Future exhibition at MOCA and the wooden sculptures that in illustration appear so very seamless and in real life distinctly showed the hand of the artist as craftsperson.

I’ll upload just a few installation images then I have to go for a bit. Um, I’m on vacation in Santa Barbara at the lovely Cheshire Cat Inn) and need a disco nap so I can party tonight ;-]

(As a matter of fact, I’m not on really vacation – I am currently indulging two of my passions: researching contemporary art, and being pampered in a beautiful setting. The exhibition I have been posting about, Home Show, Revisited, is opening this weekend and I am in town to continue my looking and my artist interviews. My aforementioned base of operations, The Cheshire Cat Inn, is about the most gracious accommodation that one can imagine. The setting is an early twentieth century mansion in a garden-filled neighborhood, our room has a sunny balcony overlooking oak trees and roses, and our hostess/innkeeper is cheerfully engaging and full of stories about world travel and Santa Barbara tidbits. Yes, Santa Barbara is heavenly in spring.)

Ed Johnson, “Devil Among the Tailors,” Kristi Engle Gallery, 5002 York Blvd, Highland Park, 90042

More about Ed Johnson, more about the CAF and news of a truly exciting and star-studded panel at Mandrake next weekend(Sunday, May 29 at 7 PM). “Intervening in the Picture Plane” will be moderated by Corrina Peipon and includes Olivia Booth, Sarah Cain, Kim Fisher, and Rebecca Morris.

Additional excellence to brag on LA about! Life continues to be good.

Bye for now,

Geoff

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