was born in Belle Glade, Florida. He is the son of a U.S. Navy captain/attorney
and a painter-musician mother. He spent his childhood living in Hawaii,
California, Virginia and Florida.
He studied writing and anthropology at Florida State University in Tallahassee before changing his focus to art. During his study of fine arts in FSU's BFA program, he exhibited in his first museum show, Young Men in Art, at the Polk County Museum in Lakeland, Florida, in 1973, curated by John Streetman. Among his early influences in Tallahassee were artist friends Robin Rose, Phil Hunt, Joe Johnson, and Ron Jones ; two art professors he studied under (Steve Pressler and Ray Burggraf), and another FSU art professor from Great Britain, Trevor Bell.
He was interested in underground cartoons and the popular illustrators of the 1970s Rick Griffin, Roger Dean (whose work inspired the art of the movie Avatar),and Peter Max but his own love was abstraction, working with pure color, line and composition without representational content. He was always interested in new media and during this time he worked with sprayed and dripped lacquers on the back side of Plexiglas®: These paintings were viewed from the clear side through 1/8" of clear acrylic sheet, which brilliantly intensified the color.
Self portrait, 1973, Lake Bradford swamp, Tallahassee, Florida
Johnson also had a lifelong interest in the natural world and he became
known for his wildlife illustration with the Florida Department
of Natural Resources and also through his own business, SCENE 1 Wildlife
designed several birds-of-prey beer labels for the Mendocino
Brewing Company in the early 1980s, among them the award-winning Red
Tail Ale that is now in national distribution on both beer bottles
and distinctive marinades.
of painting, "The Drop of Life
With a long-standing interest in the natural sciences and man's place in the world, Johnson is a fan of writers Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, as well as Daniel Quinn. He is particularly interested in James Gleick's writing on chaos theory and is drawn to the related images of the natural world by the late photographer Eliot Porter. In the late 1990s, Dr. Yannis C. Yortsos, his brother-in-law and the the dean of the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles, California, introduced him to the scientific descriptions of the mixing of fluids. His interests in nature, science and art were ready to converge.
During the spring of 1997, Johnson began experimenting with the chaotic mixing, scuffing and blending of viscous acrylic paintswithout the use of traditional art tools. He found the spontaneous painting with bold colors exhilarating, and then discovered jewel-like compositions within the larger chaotic fields. After an inspired discussion with fellow Ashland artist Thomy Barton, Johnson decided to use digital technology to dramatically change the scale of the pieces, creating a hybrid art form: Directed Chaos. In the process, he was surprised to discover that within the layers of his paint films, there appeared patterns that resemble those found in the natural world. Although purely abstract and ethereal, the "environments" he is creating mimic the feel and structure of flowing/splashing water, atmospheric phenomena, geologic formations and various life forms. The paintings present a paradox: They appear to be totally alien, yet somehow seem familar. Many viewers have reported sudden sparks of recognition and the recollection of distant memories.
The present stage of Johnson's journey into pure abstraction is presented here as limited editions digital prints on canvas and paper. These are not prints in the usual sense of the word: They are not simply reproductions of works of art. The initial acrylic paintings in acrylics are digitally recomposed and repainted by the artist. The resulting image in the digital print has become the original it exists nowhere else and is the end result of an art-making process.
Johnson's directed chaos paintings were first exhibited at US Bank in Ashland, Oregon, during the summer of 2003. Since then, he has had solo exhibitions in Grants Pass, Oregon, at Grants Pass Museum of Art in the summer of 2010; the Berryman Gallery at the Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford, Oregon; the Artistic Elements Gallery in Grants Pass in 2011; and the Rogue Valley Manor Gallery in Medford, Oregon, in March 2012.
In December of 2004, Johnson received international recognition. An article on his art and directed chaos technique was featured in Volume 7 of a premier architecture and art magazine, Architecture+. Published in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Architecture+ showcases the architecture and design of the emerging world: the Gulf, Middle East, Far East, Africa and Asia. It's goal is to "connect the heart of this world with the industrialized nations with a global platform for synergies and debate."
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