Born in San Jose, 1968; lives and works in Los Angeles
Before Chris Johanson was identified with the Mission School — a close-knit group of San Francisco-based artists who emerged in the 1990s and shared an interest in street culture and folk art — he was a kid growing up in the suburbs of San Jose. His days were spent skateboarding, painting houses, publishing zines, playing music, and designing posters for punk bands. Johanson continues to pursue projects that reflect a DIY ethos and an interest in human relationships, society, and the environment. Often taking the form of brightly colored paintings, drawings, and large-scale installations, his work presents a sincere and direct cosmology of shapes and figures that exude positive energy while questioning their existence and the world around them.
For this exhibition Johanson created a series of outdoor sculptures. In Village Park, a twenty-foot-tall inflatable question mark stitched from mismatched swatches of recycled fabric floats above our heads. In the historic apricot orchard, Johanson wrapped a reclaimed wood door around the base of a tree; appearing old and weathered, it looks as if it predates the roots it surrounds. Three additional doors are situated in Lincoln Park. Vibrantly colored with customized frames and handles, they are each open to different degrees, inviting viewers to walk through them and symbolically offering opportunities for change and testing our willingness to seek it. A quieter intervention is found at First and Shasta Streets. Johanson was taken with the juxtaposition of the word first on the street sign and the stop on the traffic sign below it, and added his own extension of this subtle poetic statement. Behind 242 State Street, a mirror on the building's custom-painted rear facade offers a place for reflection and a reframing of the landscapes we observe.
Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture