In his unique approach to painting, Johnson continues his exploration of current American culture, while introducing a heightened critique of its underlying composition and superficial values.
In the works on view, Johnson continues to push the limits of his self-invented process; wherein conventional pictorial logic is turned inside-out, thus echoing the artist’s desire to probe the marrow of society. The images are built by painting in reverse—first sketching the composition on a sheet of plastic, then applying controlled brushstrokes, gushes of acrylic paint, and miniscule magazine cut-outs to its backside. Through this method, a film of layers of paint accumulates on the plastic, and ultimately the work is completed by affixing stretched construction safety netting to this film with a pour of acrylic polymer. In the act of completion, Johnson peels away the plastic on which the work was created, leaving the painted composition congealed to the netting.
The characters in Johnson’s new paintings are composed of emblems of Americana culture, melding references to cowboys, circus freaks, and warmongers. He at once indulges and ridicules their origin, depicting an unforgiving reflection on our over-saturated and animalistic culture. The works are replete with contradictions, as viscera and dissected flesh are interlaced with luscious elaborate designs and vibrant glitzy colors. Juxtapositions of sportsmen and warriors, cowboys and soldiers, or animals and humans, allude to our society’s increasingly blurred boundaries between the perception of spectacle and war. By way of these contradictions, Johnson externalizes the struggle amongst and within the characters, yet deprives them of the cathartic triumphant ending, as they all bring on their own dissolution—the warrior shoots himself in the arm, the bodybuilder succumbs to his monstrous dumbbell, and the rodeo climaxes in a bloody sea where neither man nor beast will be the victor.
Aaron Johnson lives and works in New York, and holds an MFA from Hunter College. He has participated in numerous exhibitions both locally and internationally, including Traun (Austria), New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. His work is part of prestigious collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art Drawings Collection. The recipient of several grants and awards, he is currently a resident in The Space Program of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. His work will also be included in the upcoming exhibition Size Matters at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA) in Peekskill, NY.