DATES: June 4 – June 28, 2017
OPENING RECEPTION : Sunday June 4, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
LOCATION:  WERKARTZ  (@werkartz) / 927 S. Santa Fe Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012
REGULAR HOURS : Wednesday – Sunday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Dion Johnson, Dream Racer, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 inches

Western Project is proud to present a solo exhibition of new paintings by Dion Johnson. This new body of work, Color Chords, will be shown at Werkartz in downtown Los Angeles.

Influenced by his recent trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal, along with the natural and urban terrain of Southern California, Johnson has found new compositions and color relationships for his abstract language. Like his predecessor, John McLaughlin, Johnson has found a bridge between an Eastern sensibility and Western iconography. This appears primarily in his spatial relationships; dense color fields and gradient atmospheres suggest skies, water, or glowing city nights. While one could sense a familiarity with Turrell environments, Johnson’s scale is far more intimate: a feeling of some internal vision, or steep vista, or perhaps as an abstract thangka. It is the play of solid color fields and ambient gradations, which make these works a melding of the natural, architectural and cinematic worlds. They convey a sense of not looking at nature, but being present in it; as in a grand city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Johnson has always had a keen interest in color, especially in Paul Klee’s polyphonic approach; of simultaneous blocks of colors producing a kind of rhythm and harmony, a musicality of time, fluctuation, and sensation. It is Johnson’s shapes and compositions, which set up rhythms and visual chords. His progressive forms have a kind of linear sense, but more importantly a wholeness, much like the beginning of a cool morning walk which ends in the mid day sun; the path and the perception are one. 

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.

Dion Johnson in Studio