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Arts+Leisure: EZRA JOHNSON - Angry Sea - 28 Oct 2016 to 4 Dec 2016

Current Exhibition


28 Oct 2016 to 4 Dec 2016

Arts+Leisure
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Ezra Johnson
Screen grab from "Angry Sea," 2016
mixed media animation, 8:54


Artists in this exhibition: Ezra Johnson


Ezra Johnson
Angry Sea

October 28th – December 4th, 2016
Opening reception Friday, October 28th, 7pm - 10pm

Arts+Leisure is pleased to present Ezra Johnson’s new solo exhibition, Angry Sea. For this exhibition, Johnson has created an animation representing the brain in a state of anger, displayed alongside several small-scale paintings. Accompanying the exhibition will be a full-color, limited edition artist's book, available for sale.

Over the course of his career, Johnson has refined his characteristic approach to the medium of animation, developing a practice in which hundreds, even thousands, of painted cells merge to create a fantastical, dreamlike world that is both ethereal and suggestive yet viscerally physical. His work undermines the linearity traditionally associated with animation—everything is in constant flux, and the intense materiality and expressiveness of his technique carries a narrative of its own.

Angry Sea functions as an analogy for an irritated human brain, and Johnson approaches the animation as a “visualization of what happens in there when someone is pissed off and swearing.” He likens it to “a sort of Kusama ‘Infinity Room’” that has been agitated and injected with a sense of comic surrealism, a parallel that is reinforced by its projection onto a mirror, referencing Kusama’s own installations. A litany of swear words, written in bold block letters, springs from the teeming background of squiggles and dots with an almost naive exuberance. This undulating “sea” of profanity is interspersed with what the artist describes as “toxic sunsets,” which adds another dimension of meaning to the work. The soundtrack to the animation is the laugh track from The Cosby Show, lending an undertone of dread as well as the pervasive sense that there is something more, hidden just beyond the viewers' perception, like an in-joke whose meaning they are not privy to.

In addition to the video are combinations of small paintings in multi-colored frames, organized tightly in a grid that alludes to a sequence of video. Some depict the sentimental subject of the sun setting over a horizon of a sloppily painted field of color which might double as waves in the sea. Elsewhere, a triptych called Musée de la Chasse depicts a hunting trophy display of two cheetahs, deconstructed. Though the subject matter of these paintings is diverse, they are connected to each other through their concern with scale, pattern and framing.

Ezra Johnson is a painter and animator based in Florida and London. He was born in 1975 in Wenatchee, Washington and received a MFA from Hunter College in New York in 2006. He has exhibited his work at many prestigious venues such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Site Santa Fe Biennial, and the ICA in Philadelphia, as well as at galleries nationally and internationally. His work is currently feautured in the exhibition “Domestic Seen” at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas, opening on October 20th, 2016 and running through March 26th, 2017.


Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on Friday, October 28th from 7 to 10PM. Refreshments will be served. A full-color, limited edition artist's book will be available for sale. For further information, or to order a copy of the artist's book, please contact Nick@artsandleisure.net, or call 212.828.5700.


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