Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Artnews June 2004 Review of Mitchell Johnson exhibit at Terrence Rogers Fine Art


Mitchell Johnson at Terrence Rogers Fine Art

Santa Monica May, 2003

Review from Artnews Magazine June, 2004, Page 119

Mitchell Johnson’s latest oil paintings of European beach scenes are fresh and pleasing. Using large brushy strokes and bright, often improbable colors, Johnson gives dynamic form to everyday life with an Impressionistic sensibility. 

In the 2003 work, Numana & Hossegor, Johnson depicts bathers heading into the sea. The surf is rendered as an abstract swath of frothy white set against a vibrant green horizon. The sand is a field of neon orange, creating a visual correlative for the feel of heat on one’s feet.

In the 2003 work, Bornholm (Yellow Raft), Johnson turns an inflated lime-green inner tube, held by a sun kissed child marching across white sand, into a geometric abstraction. The artist balances the composition with a large yellow rectangular raft held by another beach goer. Both figures cast cool blue shadows, perfectly capturing the late-afternoon light of a sunny day at the beach. In a series of smaller canvases, Johnson eliminated the figures and zeroed in on geometric patterns, such as the radiating stripes of beach umbrellas.

Also on view were eight small canvases painted on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, that picture A-frame houses in bright blocks of color against flat blue skies. The clean, crisp homes looked intimate and inviting, but the landscapes seemed timeless and empty, forlorn in a way that recalls Edward Hopper’s small-town scenes.

Four small canvases depicting Italian construction workers against globe fields of color were less about the individuals than the work being performed, and they demonstrated how Johnson’s energetic brushwork lends itself to representing movement. Overall, the exhibition revealed the sure hand of a devoted colorist able to extract visual tension from the world around him.

-Susan Emerling

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