Flea Street Restaurant in Menlo Park, Calif., Currently hosts an exhibition of paintings by Bay Area artist Mitchell Johnson. Art historian Peter Selz has described Johnson as “an artist who paints realistic paintings which are essentially abstract paintings and figurative abstract paintings”. The exhibition on Flea Street includes recent paintings from Italy, France, Truro, New York and San Francisco.
Mitchell Johnson moved to Palo Alto, California in 1990, shortly after completing his MFA at Parsons School of Design in New York City. He spent the 1990s wandering between California, New Mexico, and Europe as he created brush landscapes and figurative paintings. In the 2000s, repeated trips to the Danish island of Bornholm and a chance visit to an exhibition by Josef Albers / Giorgio Morandi in Bologna led to a decisive change. Johnson turned to a more organized image shot, where the larger shapes serve as a scaffolding for discussions between color and context. The earth and the clouds have become clusters of roofs and cottages. Quilts from the Tuscan fields have become water towers, picnic tables and lifeguard stations.
Johnson’s concern for color has been widely noted. As Susan Emerling wrote in her review of her 2004 exhibition at Terrence Rogers Fine Art for ARTnews:
Johnson’s latest oil paintings of European beach scenes are fresh and pleasing. With large brushstrokes and bright, often improbable colors, Johnson gives dynamic form to everyday life with impressionistic sensibility… Overall, the exhibition revealed the sure hand of a dedicated colourist capable of extracting color. visual tension of the world around him.
In a recent edition of Artscope Magazine, Lee Roscoe said:
Indeed, the color and form seem to be the point rather than the subjects themselves. The houses and landscapes painted by Johnson are in a way pretexts to express colors. We wonder if he suggests that our world is only color and form? And yet these colors and shapes evoke the essence of the place: its European outlook is sort of, well, so European. His views of New York are quite New York; those of San Francisco as of Russian Hill, could only be San Francisco. Likewise, its views of Cape Cod essentialize the Cape.
Mitchell Johnson’s paintings are on display until January 2022 at Flea Street, located at 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas in Menlo Park, California.
Johnson’s work is also included in a group exhibition on display until January 2022 at Questroyal Fine Art, located on the third floor of 903 Park Avenue in New York City.
For more information, visit mitchelljohnson.com.
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