Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York is proud to present Cycle of Cities I: Collapse, a solo exhibition by photographer Courtney Johnson. This will be Johnson’s second solo show with Jenkins Johnson Gallery in New York. There will be an opening reception with the artist on Thursday, March 1 from 6 to 8 pm.
Photographer Courtney Johnson has been working with cliché-verre photography since the late 1990s, expanding on a painted negative technique first employed in the mid-19th century by painters wishing to venture into the new medium of photography. Expanding on her 2010 exhibition,Glass Cities in which Johnson created cityscapes on glass negatives using nail polish, Wite Out, and ink, her current series, Cycle of Cities, takes the cliche-verre technique to a new level, by combining procedure, content, and language to form a visually arresting and haunting body of work.
Focusing her work on the collapse of major global epicenters, Johnson subjects her negatives to the same type of damage that has afflicted the city depicted in them. Through the use of battle maps or satellite topography on glass and film, her negatives are afflicted with water as a symbolof flooding in New Orleans, Sumatra, and Atlantis; burning to depict fire in Richmond, London, and Nairobi; and broken glass to reference explosion in Berlin, Hiroshima, and Baghdad. The works are then titled according to the disaster in the native language of the location.
The seminal work Air I meaning water in Bahasa Indonesian, references the flooding in Medan, Sumatra after the 2004 Christmas Tsunami.
Similarly, Fire II draws from the extensive fires set in Richmond, Virginia after the end of the United States Civil War. Pushing the boundaries of cliché-verre photography, which traditionally uses glass negatives, Johnson paints on blank film before lighting fire to the image. Not only is the image partially destroyed, but heat on the film causes bubbling, variations in color and a distorted dimensionality, echoing the multilayered destructiveness of a large-scale fire.
Through her use of both contemporary and historical events, and manmade and natural disasters, Johnson draws attention to the universal recurring themes and fundamental cycles of destruction and rebirth. Johnson states, “These themes are incredibly poignant in 2012, as the Mayans prophesized that 2012 would bring death, destruction, and the end of the world, while many scholars believe this is a misinterpretation and that the 1,300 year old calendar actually indicates that the winter solstice will instead bring a renewal – the end of one cycle and the start of a new. Beyond their power to destroy, water, fire, and explosions are symbols of cleansing and renewal. But first there is Collapse.”
Courtney Johnson received her BFA with Honors from New York University and her MFA from the University of Miami. She has shown widely throughout the United States and internationally, and she has been lauded in both American and foreign press. She is currently an assistant professor in the art and art history department at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Her work was recently added to the permanent collection at the FOTOMUSEO, The National Museum of Photography in Bogotá, Colombia.