Review: Johnson's work demands attention
Kelley Johnson's show, "Recent Paintings," at Bruno David Gallery, offers a dizzying looking into spaces, both deep and shallow, punctuated by gnarled abstract structures that teeter on the brink of collapse. Johnson's forceful, confident handling of the paint demands your full attention, and rewards you with a serious case of vertigo.
The 10 canvases in this show come in two sizes, medium and large; but within those dimensional confines Johnson produces an astonishing array of formal effects.
"Slow Hum" (2010) ensconces a twisting mesh of brushstrokes within a somber black portal.
The central structure in "Construction to avoid drowning" (2010) obeys neither gravity nor logic, obeying its own laws of orientation.
Johnson's paintings, too, are unclassifiable: deep, illusionistic spaces tip unexpectedly into flatness, while purely abstract forms struggle to stifle emergent narrative impulses. Intense, compulsive and contradictory, these are the kind of paintings that make you glad artists still paint.
Also on view is Gary Passanise's "The Sky Is No Longer The Limit: Constructions and Proposals," a surprising group of humorous, ironic, and critical works by the ever-evolving artist; Iris Nesher's "In the Dark Rooms," a stunning exhibition of photographs of women writers; and an engaging three-channel video, "Totem (1)," by Kansas City, Missouri artist Barry Anderson.
Ivy Cooper, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon art critic.
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.