DION JOHNSON : Feel The Sky – A Ten-Year Survey
DATES: Jan 12 – Mar 2, 2018
LOCATION: Azuza Pacific University Duke Art Gallery / 701 E. Foothill Blvd. Azuza, CA 91702
Johnson is circumstantially a digital painter, but free from the pessimism and the burden of perfection – endowed with an analog attitude, maybe. In Ad Astra (2017), the most recent painting on view here, the composition announces itself as something that could only exist now, in an era in which artists can stretch and condense colors and shapes on computer screens. But the digital is a tool, not a fixation. A compression of warm and cool, straight and curved bands of color coexist, moving in and out of each other, at the center of Ad Astra. The lines are clean, but matter-of-factly so; even if they were painstakingly produced, none read as obsessive. On either side is a spacious expanse of red – on the left, the red fades upwards toward pink and on the right, downward. Because the composition leaves breathing room, the mind feels free to ricochet out, to move back and forth between screen and landscape, surface and atmosphere.’
– Catherine Wagley, exhibition essay excerpt
Johnson’s paintings combine and explore dynamic opposites: expansiveness and compression, darkness and light. Johnson uses color to evoke the contemporary urban, digital and natural landscape of Southern California, and skews the vocabulary of abstraction into a hybrid techno-language. His compositions use broad open shapes with convex/concave edges against multi-planed bands, evoking atmospheric spatial shifts. The diagonal structures possibly allude to car windows or an opening retina, each exposing a radiant vastness. Johnson’s use of color is intuitive, though his Pop inspired vision comes from the commercial tangle of Southern California city structure. Whether observing the curvature of freeway interchanges or bright noon daylight, Johnson’s work is a clear balance of the harmonic and dissonant qualities in our environment.
Los Angeles Times art critic David Pagel writes of Johnson’s work, “These seemingly calm arrangements of gently curved shapes, in a sumptuously saturated and wildly unnatural palette, are anything but wallflowers. They play with scale like nobody’s business, filling the empty space around them with inclusive, user-friendly snippets of imagined symphonies. As quickly as they energize the space around them, Johnson’s idiosyncratic compositions set up kinky rhythms—beats and echoes that lead one way only to be interrupted by any number of possibilities.”
Johnson is represented by Western Project, Los Angles, and Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, Texas. He has shown at the Rebecca Ibel Gallery, Columbus, Ohio, Stephen Stux Gallery, New York, Carl Berg Gallery and Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles, James Kelly Contemporary in Santa Fe, Torrance Art Museum, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, and other galleries and museums across the US. Johnson’s work has been reviewed and featured in articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, ART News, Art Forum, The Huffington Post, L.A. Weekly, Art Week, Droste Effect Magazine, Artillery Magazine, Art Scene and others. Johnson is an adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles Mission College teaching painting, three-dimensional design and illustration for multimedia. He has been a visiting lecturer for undergraduate and graduate art programs at numerous colleges and universities including, University of California Santa Barbara, California State University Northridge, Azusa Pacific University and Claremont Graduate University. His work is in public collections such as The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, The Capital Group Companies, Los Angeles, California, Creative Artists Agency, Century City, California, Pizutti Collection Columbus, Ohio, Progressive Corporation, Mayfield Village, Ohio, Wellington Management, Boston, Massachusetts, and many more.