Chris Johanson creates wildly colorful and utterly unique drawings and paintings that muse over the darker themes of the contemporary human condition. The artist’s multidimensional practice also encompasses music and ramshackle sculptural installations that reflect his cosmology. A participant in the Bay Area’s graffiti scene in the 1990s, Johanson took up painting and drawing in a budding community of street artists––later known as the Mission School––who sought to convey urban realism and social commentary in their practice. Often working with found or repurposed materials like bottles, wood, and paper from dumpsters and construction sites, Johanson approaches art making as an ongoing experiment and quest for the sublime.
Over the years the artist’s style has shifted from figurative representations with accompanying text toward simplified forms and universal conceptual themes that contextualize his own position in the world. Using bold colors and a flat perspective, Johanson’s detailed, brightly colored depictions of ordinary people and places are a spirited defense of humanity against the ills of the modern world, ranging from wars and environmental pollution to the psychological perils of consumerism, cult spirituality, and self-help. In humorous pastoral scenes, Johanson advocates for a more mindful engagement with our environment.
Chris Johanson (b. 1968, San Jose, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. He has had solo exhibitions at the Portland Museum of Modern Art (2014); MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles (2013); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2011); and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2001), among others. He has participated in numerous group shows, including those at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2018); McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2017); Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Benaki Museum, Athens (2015); SITE Santa Fe (2013); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011); Museo de la Ciudad de México (2010); MoMA PS1 (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2009); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006); Berlin Biennial (2006), and the Whitney Biennial, New York (2002). His work is held in the public collections of the Hammer Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.