Thursday, February 26, 2009

Christopher Lowry Johnson @ Winkleman Gallery, Feb 27 - Mar 28

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present “What We Call Progress Is This Storm,” our fourth solo exhibition by New York artist Christopher Lowry Johnson. In this new body of work, Johnson explores the intersections of modern Americana and American painting through the central themes of ruin, renewal, and remembrance. With imagery sourced in symbols of “modern living”—skyscrapers, satellite images on “Google Maps," suburban neighborhoods, and city scaffolding—Johnson’s richly-layered, mosaic-like paintings blend somber palettes with complex, built-up surfaces resulting in works that convey an intense sense of contained agitation.

Each painting in this new series is a deliberate consequence of imposing on it multiple possible frameworks; the residual history of its surface helping to determine the eventual form of the picture. From the ruins of earlier efforts a new framework is revealed, one that is not as rigid but precarious, more human. The simplest grids are thwarted, subtlety shaken from their rigidity, in some works suggesting that precise moment just before a total implosion in controlled demolitions. Johnson’s images are derived from his contemplating places known and felt, some only half-remembered but from a memory of them like no other. These paintings seem to conjure older forms, modernist and optimistic while simultaneously functioning as an efficacious portrayal of contemporary anxiety.
“Where a chain of events appears before us, He sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet...But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows toward the sky. What we call progress is this storm." ---Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”
Christopher Lowry Johnson received his BFA from the Pennsylvania State University and his M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and reviewed in TimeOut New York, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Contemporary magazine and featured in Harper’s magazine and the book by John Waters and Bruce Hainley, Art: A Sex Book.

For more information, please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or

Labels: gallery exhibition


Blogger Tom Hering said...

Mulberry Lane (2008) is a beautifully troubling painting. I've walked down lanes like that, wondering if anyone really lives in those houses, because you almost never see people outside them. Just the occasional jogger on the lane, who always brings to mind that photo of a Vietnamese girl trying to run away from the napalm on her back.

2/26/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I am not a critic nor an expert, but I find this exhibit is very relevant to me.

I find some of the paintings on first glance to be comforting, but a continued observation it becomes quite disturbing for the reasons that Tom Hering said.

I grew up in suburbia, and these paintings are, to me, a reminder. It reflects my youthful impressions of suburbia - which is a deliberate experience, that upon growing older you realize the "bucolic" aspects are false. On a quick glance and the style of the painting "Mulberry Lane" or "Elmwood" you sense the bucolic nature, but through the color palette and the yellow striped road, power lines, and ticky-tacky houses, the suspension of disbelief is shattered - just like as a youth grows up and sees his past as an adult. Well done if this was the intent! The titles of the paintings there are a nice touch, too.

2/26/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Well done if this was the intent!

Indeed, Chris has been exploring that exquisitely American sense of melancholy and longing that being surrounded by the more superficial trappings of happiness seems to bring, for years. His earlier paintings did this through huge, empty skies or long foregrounds up to some symbol of so-called satisfaction (McMansions, adult bookstores, etc.), but this latest series is zooming in (specifically on suburbs and urban grids) and doing it through a complex painting surface and structure that looks as if the entire thing might crumble at the slightest jolt.

2/26/2009 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The 'American Melancholy' that's it.

2/26/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said..., how many times did I say "efficace" in french, looking for another word, and people didn't seem to understand.
And there's an english version!

Anyway, Bromo Ivory, you have a beautiful name.

Cedric Casp

2/26/2009 11:49:00 PM  

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