Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Chromatic Interactions, an exhibition by Gregory Johnston of new works in enamel on aluminum panel, and two large-scale photographic compositions. This is his first show with the gallery.
Chromatic Interactions continues Johnston’s celebration of the golden era of European motorsports. Utilizing the materials and fabrication methods of traditional Italian “Carrozzerie,” Johnston’s work evokes the styling and coachbuilding tradition that created Italy’s finest luxury sport cars, culminating in the racing cars and prototypes of Ferrari-which dominated both Formula One and legendary endurance races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, especially from the late 1950s until the early 1970s.
At the same time, Johnston’s new artwork reflects his continuing engagement with the modern and postmodern masters of abstract color painting and minimalist sculpture, presenting a thoughtful, contemporary vision of the enduring issues raised variously by Duchamp, Albers, Judd and others.
The series titled L’Inevitable Esponenziale, for example-which may be seen as an homage to Albers’ Homage to the Square-makes use of high gloss hand-polished aluminum plates finished in related hues but oriented at three slightly different angles, each edged with interior framing wedges of contrasting color. All surfaces are highly reflective, and the addition of a third dimension makes lighting and surface shadows a far more important element of the exploration of color interaction so methodically begun by Albers-initially, during his decades as an influential teacher (at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale), and later, in his most celebrated signature work. The comparatively large scale of the Johnston series-40 x 30 inches-is intended, as was Albers’, to fill the viewer’s field of vision, but also to create a tantalizing, almost irresistible temptation to lean forward and touch their sensuous gleaming surfaces.
The series titled Tableau Vivant, on the other hand, consists of work employing the superellipse shape known as a “squircle”– which has rounded corners, four sides of equal length, and is described by the Cartesian coordinate system equation, (x – a) + (y – b)⁴= r. It was not however, until the mid-20th Century that the latent potential of the superellipse as a powerful, even iconic element of design began to be realized in the context of architecture and the applied arts, especially in Scandinavia. This is often attributed to Piet Heins, a Danish mathematician who was a seminal influence on post-war Scandinavian architects, town planners, designers and even furniture makers. But the original credit for the concept of the squircle must be given to Rene Descartes and the revolution in mathematics he affected by his creation of a rigorous method for translating geometry into the language of algebra.
The two large photographic works in the show also pay homage to motorsports, but less with materials or the methods of fabrication employed, and more explicitly with Johnston’s choice of subjects.
One of these photographic works, “Time nor Tide Waits for No Man” is Johnston’s tribute to Steve McQueen’s 1971 feature film, Le Mans, a brooding, deadpan auteur classic notable for its vivid and visceral realism. One of the most elaborately constructed and meticulously edited scenes in McQueen’s movie depicts the start of the race-with shots of drivers’ faces alternating with the track’s famous Dutray/Le Mans outdoor clock. The initially languid pace of imagery is accompanied by a soundscape of silence, the ambient sound of fans in the stands, and a heartbeat that grows increasingly audible with a quickening pulse, moment by moment, until the deafening whine and roar of fifty cars simultaneously begins the race at the stroke of 4pm. In a quiet nod to contemporary technology, the decisive moment chosen as the basis for Johnston’s work takes the film frame where the last shot of the clock cross-fades with Steven McQueen’s face, a single heartbeat before the grueling marathon begins.
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1969, Gregory Johnston studied at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) before transferring to Art Center College of Design. His work has been shown widely in the United States and Europe. Johnston lives and works in New York.