Arts + Leisure is pleased to announce Souvenirs of the Suzerain, an exhibition of new sculptures by Johnston Foster. In his first showing at the gallery, the artist presents his constructions of found objects, which often allude to the natural world, while simultaneously drawing inspiration from art historical and musical references. Comprised of common, even banal objects (PVC, vinyl siding and floor tiles, scrap metal, etc.), Foster’s practice challenges the viewer to re-examine the material fabric of their daily lives, and forms a bridge between realities of everyday consumption and the grand cycles of the natural world.

Likening his practice to a sort of “homegrown alchemy”, Foster emphasizes the hands-on, labor intensive process of creating his sculptures. By reappropriating discarded consumer products, his work also calls attention to the wasted potential of such items; just as Foster transforms them into sculptural objects, the individual could have repurposed such used goods before dumping them. While the sources of his materials are often mystifying (as in The Valley of the Universe), closer inspection reveals that Foster breaks down his found materials to their most elemental level, crafting a piece of vinyl siding into a bird’s feather, for example, or the waxy textures of Ascension of the Suzerain.

Foster’s imagery alludes to cycles of life and death, and often manifests a paradoxical, riddle-like quality. In Early Bird, a Blue Jay bites on a piece of cable attached to a heart, recalling the proverb that “the early bird gets the worm”, albeit suffused with more fatalistic undertones. The mutilated snake in The Long Division is an almost exact facsimile of Benjamin Franklin’s Join or Die woodcut; by integrating national mythos into scenes of natural life and decay, Foster suggests that human societies have the same ultimate fate as the animals and discarded goods that recur in his sculptures. A verdant forest grows within the cavity of a plastic skull in Valley of the Universe, again recapitulating themes of death, fate, and rebirth.

A full-color, limited edition artist book will accompany the exhibition and is available for purchase on our website.

Johnston Foster was born in 1978 in South Boston, VA and raised in Williamsburg, VA. He received a BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2001, an MFA from Hunter College, NYC in 2005 and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2003. He has exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe in solo and group exhibitions including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 21c Museum, MASS MOCA, Yerba Buena Center of the Arts and The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia. His work is found in collections internationally. He recently completed a commission for a permanent, immersive installation titled BuzzKill in the 3,000 sq. ft. dining room and lounge of the 21c Museum and Hotel in Bentonville, AK. Foster lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with his wife Amie Cunningham and three sons Wolfgang, Dutch and Viggo.