Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Gone Fishin', the gallery's first solo show with Brooklyn-based artist, Aaron Johnson. The exhibition takes a multidisciplinary approach to painting, as the artist continues his intention to evolve the historical medium of “painting” into new, contemporary adaptations. The opening reception for Aaron Johnson will take place on Thursday, April 20, with the exhibition running through to May 20, 2017. The artist will be in attendance for the opening.
The art of Aaron Johnson exists as a world of balance and dichotomies. Creating a universe of opposites, Johnson’s imaginary world of the grotesque skillfully connects dreams with nightmares, life with death. Concentrating his often irreverent ideological focus, Johnson continues to perfect new ways of making work, strengthening the unique universe his characters inhabit. The exhibition, Gone Fishin’ will be a combination of related, but very different techniques. Showcasing his reverse paintings, sock paintings and sock sculptures, as well as blotted works on paper, Johnson’s relevant messages, and cultural critiques become fresh and powerful through his unique visual channels. Referencing the American idea of leisure and free time, Gone Fishin’ sets a contradictory stage, one of relaxation and escape, interrupted by the ongoing currents of violence and struggle.
The title piece of the show, Gone Fishin’, forces the viewer to question the possibility of leisure and escapism. In this large-scale piece, made entirely of used and donated socks, we see a world of painful yet humorous opposition. This historically tranquil setting of a couple fishing on a lake, simultaneously highlights the viciousness of nature. The work’s main figures sit isolated in their own gluttony; their faces twisting and turning into the ugly. Johnson’s unique medium of crowdsourced socks, strengthens the absurdity of the scene. Carrying with them the collective memory of their past, these worn socks bring holes, tears, and texture to create a visceral and unsettling scenario of violence, gluttony, and unrest. Johnson's sock paintings serve as inventive visual reliefs, projecting from the panel, forcing illusionistic (painting) and real space (sculpture) to coexist. Leaping off the canvas into full sculpture for the first time, for this show, Johnson has decided to present a table of free standing sock sculptures, echoing the relief elements found within the wall pieces. Hamburgers, guns, wine glasses, french fries, and a pack of cigarettes, occupy their own space in the gallery, rich in both color and tactility.
The theme of interrupted peace continues in the show's largest "reverse painting," Gone Truckin', which centers around a moonlit country drive. What once again begins as an idyllic scene, a couple out for a romantic drive, listening to music, is twisted and derailed by a violent crash into a deer. This “Americana” scenario is both a dream and now nightmare, as we see the couple before the crash, and during. Johnson’s ability to present concurrent timelines, here creates intense visual drama. The figures intertwine in a motion that is simultaneously sexual and violent.
As an artist, Johnson explores his themes with skilled and fresh techniques. His reverse paintings are painted backwards, starting with the small details and working in reverse layers toward the background. The physical process involves painting on the reverse side of the stretched plastic sheeting, pouring on layers of acrylic polymer between progressive layers, and eventually ending up with a "paint skin" that is peeled away from the plastic and mounted to polyester netting. His ingenuity of process continues in his sock paintings and sculptures. Sourcing used socks, this seemingly absurd medium creates tactile figures, whose grotesque nature becomes amplified with this new authorship. These innovative works carry critical messages, while using humor and absurdity to help us cope with the violence of our own surroundings.
Rounding out the exhibition will be a set of works on paper. Another opportunity for the artist to explore new techniques, Johnson creates a chain reaction of works that hold echoing blots of form and color. Details for each narrative use this accidental process as the backdrop, although, this blotting can continue through several stages, before the artist begins to finish the piece with recognizable detail.
Aaron Johnson holds an MFA from Hunter College, 2005, and lives and works in Brooklyn. His work is in permanent collections at such institutions as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Colección Solo, Madrid, Spain; Fundación Mehr, and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Beverly Hills, CA. His work has been included in museum exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY; The Knoxville Museum of Contemporary Art, Knoxville, TN; the Katzen Art Center at American University, Washington, D.C.; and MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA. He is the recipient of many awards, including The MacDowell Colony Fellowship, Peterborough, NH; The Corporation of Yaddo Residency, Saratoga Springs, NY; The Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program, New York, NY; the VCCA Fellowship, Amherst, VA; and the CCA Andratx Residency, Mallorca, Spain. Johnson’s work has been reviewed in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Village Voice, ArtNews, and ArtForum.