Chris Johanson

Visual artist Chris Johanson dodges the spotlight since being jettisoned to international art stardom when his site-specific installation was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Also, in 2002, he was one of four recipients of the SECA award, for emerging artists from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the episode “Fame,” Spark explores the impact this success has had on his gritty, street-based works, journeying with him from his studio in San Francisco to the Deitch Projects gallery in New York City.

With no formal art training, Johanson learned his craft in everyday jobs — painting skateboards and houses. In 1989, he found a home and a community of artists in San Francisco’s diverse Mission District. His early work consisted of deeply observational drawings of distinctive cartoon characters, using black Sharpies on restroom walls and lampposts. He continues to work in the “documentary” spirit but his work has evolved into more colorful, show-stealing, grandiose works. Ever modest, Johanson professes that “art is really about sharing information and ideas … that’s more important than the artist.”

Like the work of many artists who are identified with what is now dubbed the Mission School, Johanson’s works are a direct response to his suburban upbringing. The Mission School, known for filtering themes on urban realism through graffiti art and social commentaries on found or recycled materials, also includes internationally acclaimed artists Barry McGee (aka Twist), Alicia McCarthy and the late Margaret Kilgallen.

Spark follows Johanson and his neighborhood artist-friends as they install the Deitch show “Now is Now.” This solo exhibition of Johanson’s individual pieces constructs one continuous document about life. In the exhibition, paintings of crudely drawn figures lead to the centerpiece sculpture of a ship that is mechanically going around in circles, chasing a bag of money with a brightly painted backdrop of abstracted swastikas.

Chris Johanson 11 August,2015Spark


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