Chris Johanson makes a folk art exhibition

The Californian artist curates a Craft and Folk Art Museum show that champions “the positive ritual of artmaking”
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untitled, (2013) by Alicia McCarthy
untitled, (2013) by Alicia McCarthy

After a hectic Frieze week, its nice to hear from an artist who cares more about daily acts of creativity, rather than big bucks. Chris Johanson's new exhibition at Los Angeles' Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) is called Artifacts of a Life Lived by the Living (to Live). He is serving as a curator here rather than principal artist, though the exhibition is similar, both in title and spirit, to Johanson's his recent MOCA solo show, Within the River of Time is My Mind.

 

Johanson, who has no formal training, comes from a skate and street art tradition and worked as a house painter prior to finding success. Today, his art is created around and inspired by the daily rhythms of life, and he seems to prize a kind of unthinking laboriousness, where the reward comes in the happy absorption found while making things.

Johanson says he picked exhibitors “who create with intention to be in rhythm with the world,” and there seems to be common belief in the redemptive quality of human manufacture among those included in the show, as well as a small-scale, folksy aesthetic.

untitled (2010) by Justin “Kutmah” McNulty
untitled (2010) by Justin “Kutmah” McNulty

The works on show include the intricate line drawings of Justin “Kutmah” McNulty, a British artist, who produced many of his mandala-like illustrations while detained in New Mexico on immigration charges.

 

Beach Trash Clowns (1994) by Kim MacConnel
Beach Trash Clowns (1994) by Kim MacConnel

The established contemporary American contemporary artist, Kim MacConnel, has contributed his Beach Trash Clowns to the series; this set of cartoonish looking figures were fashioned by MacConnel from rubbish that he gathered along the West Coast's shore, and perhaps say something about the natural world, the manufactured world, and our place within them.

 

untitled (circle color burst) (2008) by Alicia McCarthy
untitled (circle color burst) (2008) by Alicia McCarthy

Alicia McCarthy's paintings, meanwhile, are rather like Johanson's own. She comes from a similarly punky background, and applies house paint to discarded wood, to produce abstract works with grungy, yet poppy overtones.

OK, it's not folk art exactly; theren't lots of quilts and ornately carved chess sets. The overtones aren't falsely naive, as they sometimes are in some neo-foik or outsider art shows. Yet the exhibition does champion makerliness in a modern setting.

Indeed, in keeping with the show's theme, CAFAM will also be encouraging visitor interaction. Blind artist, Carmen Papalia, will be leading a walking tour on Sunday 24 November – watch that white stick! - while Johanson himself with be giving a talk and taking questions on Sunday November 17.

Find out more about the exhibition, which is on now until 5 January 2014, by going here. Discover more about Chris Johanson's life and work by buying our comprehensive career overview, here. For more insight into artists who value the daily creation of works, rather than the whims of the gallery system, take a look at our Wild Art book.


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