“His work possesses a beguiling literalness, solid forms against impalpable ground. Johnson stages a balancing act in his work, mining the sensations of life, so that his paintings and collages actually themselves become a spiritual force.” - William Zimmer, New York Times
Gene Johnson’s deceptively minimalist paintings and collages are by turns playful and subdued, with fields of white, black, and grey interrupted by pops of color and smooth lines swooping into sawtoothed peaks. While the compositions are crisp and refined, the surface is luxuriously textured, dense with intricate cross-hatching and scuffing that can resemble woven fabric, grainy newspaper photographs or fingerprints. The web of lines flickers in and out of awareness, acting as a counterbalance to the defined edges of the major forms.
Johnson’s work seems to absorb the early twentieth-century geometric abstraction of Mondrian, Moholy-Nagy and others, melt it down, and stir it with a new private language. Like many of these pioneering artists, Johnson is interested in the transcendent qualities of abstract art. He speaks of the life and energy generated by and contained in each painting, an “intense energy below the surface” of canvases that “vibrate softly, with individuality, but still whispering a more complex song, open to interpretation.” Picking up on this energy, critic William Zimmer has noted that “Johnson stages a balancing act in his work, mining the sensations of life, so that his paintings and collages actually themselves become a spiritual force.”
Educated at the School of Visual Arts and the New School in New York, Johnson divides his time between New York, Mexico, and Sao Paolo. He has participated in many exhibitions in the U.S., Latin America, and beyond, and his work is included in such collections as the Hirshhorn in Washington D.C., the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the MARGS Museum in Brazil.