Interpreting the Southwest
Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles bills itself as “A contemporary realism gallery with modern visions of the past.” Their artists, inspired by the great Western painters, blaze their own trails. Brett Allen Johnson—influenced by Maynard Dixon, the Taos Society and even, Georgia O’Keefe— says, “I’m excited to pull from them my own views of the Southwest.” Johnson is literally inspired, breathing in the atmosphere of the West and the scenes that also inspired his heroes. It becomes part of him, allowing him to portray a different sense of the reality of the West, not merely copying it. “I am not often a painter of literal places,” he explains. “I regular invent entire works, or paint them from memory. I like to invite observers into a world which is merely similar to the one they know—an adjacent world.”
Johnson lives in Utah. He studied design and abstract painting in college but left early to paint out of doors and to bring his sense of design and abstraction to his own interpretation of the landscape. “These badlands and deserts, the arid canyons, the playas and great basins,” he says, “these are where my work began, where it begins.”
His latest paintings will be shown at Maxwell Alexander Gallery November 3 through 25.
The weather is a dramatic as the scenery in the southwest. Johnson turns the drama into a convincing hyperbole in his Midsummer Drama, a 21st-century version of Thomas Cole’s grand scenes of wild, untamed America.
A finely rendered horse and rider are in the foreground of Through Good County. The middle ground and distance are expressionistic splashes of color, no longer a “literal place” but “an adjacent world”—one in which he asks us to see differently.