Chris Johanson (b. 1968) lives and works in Los Angeles and Portland. A central figure of San Francisco’s Mission School, the post-punk movement that integrated aspects of both graffiti and folk art, Johanson’s multidimensional practice encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, design, and music. Incorporating disparate influences that underscore the complexity of life, his work is centered upon themes that include spirituality, sociology, and environmental observation. Johanson had no formal artistic training but began working on figurative drawings and painting on skateboards at an early age. His compositions position themselves as conceptually open – they are fluid to interpretation and invite reflection on everyday life and the human condition.
Altman Siegel is thrilled to present Chris Johanson’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. Pairing new paintings with reworked sculptures, this show belies a major shift from previous bodies of work.
Contemplating the cycle of life, and of the material possessions we accumulate, Johanson’s focus on repurposing found objects has deepened. Trading wood substrates for canvases constructed with found stretcher bars and recycled drop cloths, materials more resistant to paint than commercial canvas, Johanson has intentionally slowed down his process, using painting as a means of mindfulness and meditation. In slowing down, Johanson has eschewed text and figuration for thoughtful abstraction, utilizing form, color, and movement to reflect on themes of bereavement, connection, and impermanence. His swirling color fields, each shade unique, create peaceful rhythms, underscoring the artist’s exploration of artmaking as a healing, therapeutic process.
Johanson has also revitalized his 2016/17 Cents sculptures for the exhibition. Originally created with found wood, these oddly shaped sculptures serially repeated the ¢ symbol to express the ever-present pressure of capitalism on us. Using found rope, collected over multiple years, Johanson transforms these once separate sculptures into one large, interconnected piece, tying them together to represent the sporadic nature of human connection. A cement human sculpture lays on the ground with indented spaces for the viewer to lay on top of. Several chairs made of recycled wood, some of which are made in collaboration with Johanna Jackson, further invite the viewer to rest and contemplate the installation.