Howard Johnson: Phantastrophies
June 22, 2018 — September 2, 2018
HOWARD JOHNSON, WISHCRAFT, 2018, 18 X 24 X ¾”, PRISMACOLOR, GRAPHITE, INK PEN, CRAYONS, AND VARIOUS PAPERS MOUNTED ON AMPERSAND STAGED BOARD
Howard Johnson, a life-long resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, is one of the most original and distinctive artists working in New England today. His artwork has often been described as “visionary,” and indeed he has spent his entire career creating images of things that most of the rest of us could never see, or even imagine.
Johnson’s visions are informed by his deep interests in avenues of intellectual and creative pursuit that attempt to understand, or at least describe, phenomena at the furthest reaches of human comprehension–myth, legend, religion, occult and arcane philosophical systems (like alchemy), science fiction and fantasy, and the search for extraterrestrials.
His drawings of other beings, other worlds, and other states of mind seem like pictures grabbed from dreams or hallucinations. They depict shallow, claustrophobic spaces of indeterminate scale, crowded with dense mobs of monsters and aliens, accompanied by objects and symbols borrowed from both American popular culture and ancient rituals. The creatures shift, intertwine, and focus their unsettling attention directly on us.
These fantastic scenes are made palpable and emotionally powerful by Johnson’s prodigious aesthetic technique. For many years, he has been a master draftsman, with a virtuoso command of line. More recently, he has added color to his artistic arsenal to make his images both richly attractive and creepily repulsive. Johnson is also a student of art history, and has closely studied Pablo Picasso, the Surrealists, Hieronymus Bosch, and other artists who have shared his penchant for the bizarre. To this mix he adds sensuality, a dark humor, and curious titles that serve only to deepen the mystery of his apparitions.