Ezra Johnson

Painted Animations 2006 - 2016

Opening Reception: March 24th 5pm - 9:30 pm

 

Young Projects is pleased to present “Painted Animations 2006-2016” by Ezra Johnson.

 

While artists and critics alike often use the term “painterly” to describe video works, Johnson is one of the few artists today who actually uses oil, acrylics and canvasses to compose his moving image artworks. Each is the result of an exceedingly laborious process where the artist paints and repaints the surface of a canvas over and over—each layer providing a single frame of film—to create various scenarios, which in turn, are strung into loose narratives.

 

For Johnson, the painterly is something that has always eluded the cinematic, given that it’s a very rich, physical, tangible quality that cannot be fully conveyed by a time-based medium.  And yet, as a painter who's fond of the tactile, he's always trying to come to terms with that disparity to create a kind of hybrid between the two. “I’m trying to make my dreams real,” says the artist. “Not just through imagery but also through different kinds of connectivity and by the transitions between images. I want to plow through space in a physical way; pushing forward into it with energy. I want to go mucking from side to side with gooey, soupy paint or chunks of cut paper and objects. I like to make it physical so the viewer can feel it in a visceral way- not slick or heavily produced.”

 

More pointedly, the content of Johnson’s animations tend to convey singular moments and/or ‘painterly’ subject matter that can also fold back in on itself in a self-reflexive way. His "What Visions Burn," for instance, can be seen as a narrative about an “art heist” and yet as critic Jan Tumlir writes, it’s also "a film of and about painting [as well as] a painting of and about film." In other words, it conveys its subject matter through the physical qualities of the brush strokes, paint and canvases.

 

And indeed, this tension between painting’s aesthetic tendency for abstraction and film’s tendency toward ‘realism’ is perhaps the very quality that makes Johnson’s work so fascinating. “Johnson resumes the discussion initiated by the Futurists from a resolutely postmodern perspective,” continues Tumlir. “The designation is meaningful, for if the influence of painting on cinema was formerly understood as ‘deformative’ in the strictly modernist sense of prioritizing the individual, abstracting imagination over the exercise of objective perception, then we may now begin to consider the reverse equation of the cinema’s influence on painting. What succeeds the modern is effectively what precedes it, what the modern repressed and, by the same token, transformed: the image. Alongside such contemporary figures as William Kentridge, Kara Walker, and Paul Chan, all artists known for their work in animation, Johnson has openly aligned himself with a figurative tradition. But this is a figuration strained through a filmic template that has itself been strained through the template of painterly abstraction (and so forth and so on).”

 

Johnson’s exhibit at Young Projects will give viewers the rare chance to see 10 years worth of the artist’s animations, including such celebrated works as “What Visions Burn”, “Stranded in a House,” “The Time of Tall Statues,” “What Birds Remember If They Do Remember." The show will also debut the artist’s latest work The Angry Sea, which has never been shown before.

 

Ezra Johnson was born in 1975 in Wenatchee, Washington, and lives in Brooklyn. He received a BFA in painting in 2000 from the California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco. In 2006 he completed an MFA in painting at Hunter College, New York. While at Hunter, Johnson participated in an exchange program with the Universität der Kunst in Berlin, where he studied painting under Daniel Richter. His work has been shown at the Dia Center (curated by Lynn Cooke) and Italy’s Festival for Contemporary Arts (curated by Paolo Baldacci). He has also had a solo show at the Hammer Museum and been included in exhibitions at New Galerie (Paris), Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (NY), Arts + Leisure (NY), Freight & Volume (NY), Mindy Solomon Gallery (Miami), Tilton Gallery (NY), and Artists Space (NY), and Kantor/Feuer Gallery (LA). He is currently a 2006–2007 Winter Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts

A two-minute clip from A Time of Tall Statues (15 mins)

(Entryway)

 

 

Untitled (Billboard) 2015

Acrylic, pastel, oil on canvas 49 x 72

 

 

 

 

 

(Corner, hidden nook)

 

 

 

Guitar (2010)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 30 sec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(First gallery)

 

 

 

 

 

What Visions Burn (2005-2006)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 22 mins

Set in New York City, What Visions Burn is a dreamy, romantic story of a struggling painter who turns to stealing the objects of his infatuation in order to pay the bills.

 

 

(On flatscreen tvs)

 

 

Originally commissioned by DIA as an artist’s web project these animations simultaneously offer meditations on form and forms breaking apart exploring painting and color.

 

 

 

 

Stripes (2008)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 38 sec

 

 

 

 

Muddling Through the Spectrum (2008)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 30 sec

 

 

 

 

(Main room)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angry Sea (2016)

Animated mixed media, HD digital video, single channel. 16:9 aspect 5 mins

Expanding on “Waves”; jokingly reacting to a term used to describe shipwrecks from the past. The Angry sea floats swear-words across an undulating abstracted ocean. This is juxtaposed against glowing colorful orbs that are like toxic sunsets, which glow over the laugh-track from the Cosby show.

 

 

 

 

 

Shapeshifter (2008) (on flatscreen)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 30 sec

 

 

 

 

 

Waves (2009)

Collage and mixed media animation, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 16 sec

Made out of hand painted colored lines, swiggles, and curves the artist attempted to approximate the feeling of the ocean. The scale of the animation was actually 5’x 8’ so creating this footage was like a dance between the artist and these materials on the studio floor that went on for several days.

 

 

 

Trampoline (2010) (on flatscreen)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 16:9 aspect 6 mins 5 sec

 

 

 

Leaves (2010)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 30 sec looped

 

 

 

(Middle Area 1, to the left upon entering the main space)

 

 

 

 

Time of Tall Statues (2007-2009)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 14 mins

A nonlinear narrative, which is set in the quiet woods of a Northwestern US timber town. Invaded by anxieties about loss on the personal and societal levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Blob (2008) (small projection in corner)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 2mins 9 sec sec looped

 

 

 

 

 

(Middle area2 [white room] 2 flatscreen works)

 

 

 

Stranded in a House (2010-2013)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 16:9 aspect 6 mins 5 sec

A simple narrative of a male figure moving through a series of rooms. Using the pages of furniture catalogs to represent domestic interiors. Cyclical motion and fluid physical shape, thematically underscored by the film’s title borrowed from a line in Bob Dylan’s 1967 song. -Hanson Mulford

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stairs (2011)

Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, single channel. 4:3 aspect 23 sec

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Large Back Room)

 

 

 

 

What Birds Remember (2007)

3-channel version Animated oil/acrylic painting, HD digital video, 4:3 aspect 27 mins 22 sec

A follow-up on What Visions Burn with a much more ominous tone. A city where unlimited stories unfold imagining that birds might travel between them and act as a kind of witness.

 

Works in the Exhibition