JAMES JOHNSON (1925 - 1963) ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST PAINTINGS
R E D H O T features the bold canvases of James Johnson, a first-generation Abstract Expressionist who found a home in Northeast Ohio in the 1950s. The authenticity of his work is derived from his involvement with the New York School, followed by working with the San Francisco Bay artists.
Born in New York City in 1925, Johnson was raised in a broken home that led him to lie about his age in order to join the Navy during World War II. When Johnson returned to New York in 1949, he found himself submerged in an artistic culture of Post War abstraction advocated by Hans Hoffman, established around Greenwich Village. He attended the New York Art Students League, studying under Reginald Marsh and J.C. McPherson and learning to master the technique of water color. He went on to study oil painting at the University of Illinois where he befriended Richard Diebenkorn, who would solidify Johnson's path towards total abstraction.
After a period of time spent in Paris, Johnson moved with his wife and son to Painesville, Ohio in 1958. While in the area, he regularly exhibited his work at the Howard Wise Gallery of Present Day Art in Cleveland, garnering positive reviews from local critics. His large paintings energetically spill emotion off the edges of the canvas, showing a thoughtfully driven sense of urgency.
Shortly after the birth of his second son, Johnson abandoned his family to return to New York, where he struggled to continue the fervor he felt for creation, living in the East Village next to DeKooning, Franz Kline, Baziotes and Motherwell. Tragically, his life was pre-maturely ended in a motorcycle accident in 1963. The paintings he left behind, however, tell a meditative and self-reflective story of trying to overcome inner turmoil in an attempt to find peaceful balance.
"To construct the private plastic world in which he functions, the artist must exhaust the possibilities inherent in two areas: all that he has experienced and secondly, the projected image---all that he hopes to become."