Dion Johnson - Sonic Sky, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas,
60 x 80 inches
James Drake is like my favorite band, They Might Be Giants, in that no genre/style is left unexplored. Drake seems to move smoothly through realistic depiction to purely conceptual style works. One moment he my render an amazing figure twisting, showing well defined muscles and the next art piece might be a rendition of a mathematical formula. I think when an idea takes hold of Drake, he tries to play it out and see where it goes. So it comes as no surprise to me that Drake would display a show about mail at Holly Johnson Gallery.
When you walk into the gallery you are confronted with a wall of collaged letters, envelopes, and postcards that are arranged in a way that visually makes the papers appear to move like a river across the wall. The piece is titled Flocking Shoaling Swarming (Blue Kiss) and I can also see a kind of swarm of paper resembling the chaotic arrangement of a school of fish or flock of birds. A large circular collage is on the next wall with inner flowing implied circles. You may think, OK it is mail, what is so special about that? Well, Drake isn’t purging a hoarder collection of mail, but rather he is capturing a moment where print and mail in general is on a decline. Will mail completely disappear in the future? Drake may be implying the coming doom of this type of communication by memorializing these papers into artistic compositions. He even moves towards repurposing his paper through the act of applying his poetry to some of the work. These pieces were particularly exciting and I like the direction of placing meaningful words on top of discarded and meaningless junk mail. You can’t talk about mail art without mentioning Annette Lawrence and her body of work dealing with mail, sorting, stacking. Even though they both used the same type of material, it feels as if they took different approaches to the mail as subject matter.
I am excited to see another show by Dion Johnson. When so many artists are bowing down to the great and powerful Drip, Johnson stops short and gives the suggestion of flow without the drippy, drippy. His colors are charged and each plays off the other to make a harmonious combination of color values. Some color combinations are striking enough to make you adjust to see the work. I also like the organic shapes. I enjoy these energetic and colorful paintings which don’t bore you with just pure line, but rather with line of color that seems to ooze down the surface of the canvas.
Just to let you know, I work with Holly Johnson on some shows and I enjoy dropping by and chatting. Go talk to her this weekend at Dion Johnson’s opening on Saturday, November 19th. Johnson’s show will run through February 4th, and you can see the work by James Drake until December 23.