September - October 2018
This September, Grizzly Grizzly is proud to present Dogs/Walls/Dark Energy, a solo exhibition by Leroy Johnson. In his large-scale charcoal drawings, Johnson posits the dog as a reflection of, and connection to, a range of human behaviors. The feral dog in Johnson’s landscape is a bleak mirror for the politics of exclusion in our present moment. His visceral, intuitive process of reworking his medium both obscures and reveals his narrative. Johnson uses the rawness of this process and our long and complicated relationship with the dog as an apt metaphor for the difficult emotional relationship many of us have with our current reality.
Johnson immerses himself in his process as a means for storytelling. His approach to making art is reactive, experiential, and rejects a reliable system for completion. He relies on the dialogue he has with his work to inform process and narrative, a call-and-response that has the potential to keep his work in a state of revision. As Johnson describes it, “My process has much to do with discovering the essence of the work as well as its own path. I want work that is radically undisciplined, taking/using the tools and techniques where I can find them, expanding its borders to allow the broadest possible range of artistic possibilities, including accidents in the studio.”
Johnson has been a consistent force of artistic protest in Philadelphia and is well known for producing across media. His extensive body of work focuses on the fragmentation and isolation of life in the inner city. His fascination with the constancy and unpredictability of urban debris informs formal underpinnings in his work as well as the incidental/accidental nature of his process.
Leroy Johnson (b. 1937) is a mixed-media artist whose work takes the form of painting, collage, and assemblage sculpture. A native of Philadelphia, his work is poetic and reflective of his many experiences in the inner city. Johnson has exhibited widely, with past solo shows at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, Tirza Yalon Kolton Ceramic Gallery (Tel Aviv), Gloucester County College (Sewell, NJ), and the Camden County Historical Society. He has received grants from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Independence Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Johnson received a Masters of Human Services from Lincoln University (1986-88), and was a 2014 Pew Fellow at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. He was recently chosen as The Directors Highlight in the 2018 Let’s Connect Philly Competition at the Barnes Museum. He has been a participating/resident artist for several community-based arts projects including Ile Ife and The Village of Arts and Humanities and Taller Puertorriqueno in Philadelphia, PA; and The Church of the Advocate, St. Francis Academy in Baltimore, MD. Most recently, he was selected for the Woodmere Annual: 77th Juried Exhibition at the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA; in spring 2018 was included in the two-person exhibition “#WE HAVE NO PRESIDENT” (with Sarah McEneaney) at Marginal Utility, Philadelphia, PA; and in 2017 was the inaugural resident artist at the Art Barn in Amaranth, Amaranth, PA.