Chris Johanson

Bob Nickas, Corrina Peipon, and Julie Deamer. Phaidon, $59.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7148-5694-0
This generous survey of artist and former skateboarder Johanson offers a charming introduction to his documentary and abstract paintings. Influenced more heavily by the countercultures and street art of San Francisco than by major art institutions, Johanson's paintings and sculpture make heavy use of pictorial and figurative images, his disembodied heads and malformed bodies spouting aphoristic lines as they navigate the social realities of contemporary urban life. Always socially-conscious, Johanson moves from a dire, punk ethos to a place of optimism: "I'm not trying to be a negative manipulator, I'm trying to be a positive communicator." The critical surveys offer an overview of his career, noting overlaps with other San Francisco artists and revealing connections between technique and content that allow his particular brand of poignant humor to operate. Alongside these considerations are brief excerpts from other texts that Johanson chose to include as well a smattering of brief interviews and lyrics from his musical projects. He succeeds when he transforms naïve moments into sites of astute reflection, a character asking "Are we only spectators here on earth?", and exuding vulnerability rather than callowness. The text manages to frame Johanson's work in the scope of these transformations, making evident the value in his unique form of critical compassion. Color illus. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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