Monday, November 26, 2012

Inside The Labyrinth: Bart Johnson @ Mindy Solomon Gallery

Bart Johnson, "Doghouse"
Bart Johnson, "Doghouse"
Bart Johnson was born in 1954 in Washington DC. As a youth he familiarized himself with great art via the many museums there. A BFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago followed. He moved to NYC where he lived for eighteen years. Bart's life experiences included a series of jobs like housepainter, dishwasher, security guard, warehouse worker, janitor, typesetter, telemarketer and social worker. He also spent time during the Viet Nam War among protesters anarchists the drug use and the war news, all  inform his work. He currently resides in Corrales, New Mexico, just outside Albuquerque. In "Doghouse", pictured on either side of this paragraph, we see a white earthenware underglaze/oil paint that is 16" tall. The figures on its walls are apparently grotesque, but perhaps spiritual depictions and are in discord with one another.

Bart Johnson, "Various Predators"

 Johnson has discarded the theoretical and the formal things he learned from his academic education, but from quotes, interviews and his own writing he remains fluent in those aspects. The artist claims that since the 1980's he has been drawing and painting Dante's Divine Comedy [Link], a subject that has captivated his attention since his high school days.

Kubrick (left), image from Eyes Wide Shut on right.
 The work has an apocalyptic tone, involving the heralding of a Neo Dark Age. He mentions Albrecht Durer as an influence, Kubric's Eyes Wide Shut, a parable of the decline of and decadence during the fall of an empire.

Bart Johnson, "Thursday, 2011"

This vision has been a life-long thing with him. He does not hold the usual Modernist value for the new. For him, there are two poles in art, analogous to the Apollonian and the Dyonisian, with Duchamp and Picasso as examples. Direct observation is at the core of his work, to which end he frequently spends time drawing from life and writing in coffee shops. He considers his art a kind of reportage. There are obvious links to Beckman, Dix and Groz, whose work spanned either side of WWI, when the empires of old Europe were crumbling.

Bart Johnson, "Dies Irae"

His art is connected also to the Colonial and Endocolonial periods, from the 1870's colonization of the Congo, the earlier work of Edgar Allen Poe and others prescient of our present-day condition. Observation is extended into witnessing through the work, and himself as “the artist acting as a medium between the terrestrial plane and the spiritual plane.”
In "Dies Irae", depicted at left, the title is Latin for Day of Wrath, which we know as Judgment Day.

The work has surrealist elements, is largely unbound by realism, yet has a short-circuit connection to happenings in our everyday world and their effect on the subconscious. Johnson's apocalyptic views are shared by many these days in various ways. His work speaks to what is running through the dark recesses of the heart in a socially surreal way.

Bart Johnson, 3 "Baby Dolls"

Congratulations to Bart Johnson, Mindy Solomon and the MSG crew for a very good show.

 --- Luis


Mindy Solomon Gallery presents ‘The Work of Bart Johnson: Inside the Labyrinth’ November 10-December 15. Mindy Solomon Gallery is located at 124 2nd Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday from 11am-5pm. For more information, please contact the gallery at or 727-502-0852, or visit the website at

No comments:

Post a Comment