Wednesday, October 11, 2006

David O. Johnson, Summer 2006

David O. Johnson is a young San Francisco sculptor who’s an expert in neon, which he embeds in concrete, sheetrock, styrofoam, etc. He has stated that he's interested in the contrast of materials. Viewers with a metaphorical bent may also see spiritual meaning in these constructions of light emerging from drab industrial materials.

I first became aware of Johnson’s work at the 2004 SFAI MFA exhibit. I noticed a piece in which two large masses were linked by neon loops. The image above, taken from the artist's website, shows a detail of this work (or a variant of it).

My next encounter was in June this year when I visited (and blogged about) a group show at Root Division. One of Johnson’s works in that show was a glowing box made of styrofoam sheets (image below).

Another work in that sprawling show was an installation that created a tiny bright splash of orange-yellow light, roughly square or diamond shaped, casually off-kilter, on an otherwise vacant wall. It took awhile to notice it was there. At a distance, it looked like a superbright projection. Close up, it was clearly something else, but what? It turned out to be reflected neon light behind a hole in the wall. The hole had been tapered from the reverse side to create ultra-thin edges. The glow came indirectly from a fixture out of sight. The light had a viscous quality that was as magical as it is hard to describe. Photographing this work was beyond my skill, but I did make an effort (below).

Then in July, the Ping Pong Gallery gave Johnson a solo exhibit. This included a glowing vertical slit in one wall and a small concrete cube, both captivating (images below). I look forward to more work from this artist.

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