Selections from Optimist's Park
Several years ago, painter Ed Johnson videotaped a rebroadcast of a made-for-television movie- a modern western from the late 1970s. Johnson then took photographs of the television screen with the video paused at choice moments and has since been using these photographs to create 1:1 copies in oil on plexiglass, centering the image in a wide field of white gesso. The Kristi Engle Gallery will present five of these works in the exhibition, ÒSelections from OptimistÕs Park.Ó
In this series, Johnson captures transitive moments and by capturing them, holds them still, changing the context of the image itself. The figures in these images are trapped between one movement and another, essentially revealing a moment that was not meant to be seen. We no longer see any movement or action, but merely one frame for which we must create our own narrative. The plot, title and motivations of the filmÕs characters no longer matter. It becomes the Òevery movieÓ for the Òeveryman,Ó and the ÒeverymanÓ is no man in particular, as the Òevery movieÓ is no movie in particular.
A visual glitch caused by trying to catch a single frame on videotape gives the paintings an ephemeral effect, as figures and objects remain unclear and out of focus. These are highly mediated images (a painting of a photograph of a video of a film), and this property of JohnsonÕs process accentuates the gap created between image and subject. To paraphrase David Foster Wallace in an essay about television and contemporary fiction: realism may call it as it sees it but work such as JohnsonÕs calls it as it sees itself seeing itself see it. Through this contrived and limited portrayal of a forgotten film, Johnson brings to light issues of image, subject and representation and all of their complexities and contradictions.
* The essay cited is ÒE Unibus Pluram: Television & U.S. FictionÓ by David Foster Wallace. It is included in the collection, A Supposedly Fun Thing IÕll Never Do Again.