This month, Maxwell Alexander Gallery introduces the work of Utah painter Brett Allen Johnson. “We were lucky enough to come across him on social media,” says gallery director Beau Alexander. “While some artists paint a subject just as they see it, there are others who paint works that allow you to see through the artist’s eyes. That’s pretty special, and we picked up on that as soon as we saw Brett’s work.”
Johnson says he started his art training with the intention to go into advertising or design. But, he says, “I started seeing things in the museums of the Southwest, and I wanted to do something different than what the school was focusing on.” Halfway through his course of study, he left school, shifting his focus to the landscape.
Stark, arid, and often ominous, Johnson’s landscapes capture both the vast space and the immediacy of objects within that space. “I don’t know how to spend time in the Southwest and not have that be an indelible part of the experience,” Johnson says. “I’ve always appreciated something that gives a sense of scale. My work is a tribute to the contrast between that space and being in the space.” Important to Johnson is that his work instills at least some general sense of mystery. “I want to be sure that enough is left out that the viewer must complete the idea,” he explains.
For a young artist, the works present a clear imprint of the creator. “People can look at these paintings and know that they are not anyone else’s,” Alexander says. “While paying homage to the painters of the early 1900s, he’s putting his own twist on it.” Although the show, entitled Arid Forms, is small, with just six paintings and two drawings, Alexander stresses that the gallery has its full support behind the artist. “There has been a shift in the market for western American art,” he says, “and the quality and artistic merit is at a whole other level.” Since Johnson epitomizes that shift, Alexander adds, “We’re excited to see where Brett goes from here.”