Aaron Johnson Portraying "Other Earths" @ Almine Rech, Brussels
Other Earths is a very fitting title for Aaron Johnson's first solo exhibition with Almine Rech, which we were lucky to see in person the other day in Brussels. Showing alongside another debuting artist, Andrea Marie Breiling, and Mehdi Ghadyanloo whose Parisian debut we've featured back in Dec 2020, we're happy to see these familiar names stepping up their game and showing with such a prominent gallery.
"The first time I worked this way felt like a sort of strange magic," Johnson told us about the use of watered-down fluid acrylic back in June 2019, not long after started experimenting with this technique. "The intelligence of the paint seemed to be guiding the work as much as my own decisions." And ever since, we've been mesmerized by these explorations that used the washes of a paint-stained raw canvas as a way to uncover the luminosity of the human spirit in a world full of darkness. From initial tie-dye like compositions that turned into crowded scenes to more focused, singular portrait series, Brooklyn-based artist has now successfully mastered the unusual method, or at least as much as that is possible.
The current exhibition includes his largest works to date, a show title piece Other Earths, 2021, a mural scale work measuring whooping 108 1/4 x 144 1/8 in or 275x366cm. "It’s been amazing to have the space to show such a huge piece, the biggest canvas gave me the freedom to get extra fluid.," Johnson told us about this particular piece as we chatted with him during our visit to the gallery. The crowded scene with multiple ghost-like characters embracing each other while rainbow-like structures form around them, the piece feels like a cosmic implosion of positive, accepting emotions, especially with the addition of Earths levitating between the characters. It's the juxtaposition of such sharp-edged, graphic elements against the washed-out sections that are a new element that the artist is experimenting with currently. And this approach allows him to construct new elements in his work, such as creating landscapes in Sky Rise with Hawk Flight, 2021, or Sky Blaze and Two Hawks, 2021, or to use the liquid sections as an illusion of distant backgrounds in Touching Souls, 2021, Two Earths, 2021, or And Sometimes Birds, 2021. "I’m enjoying bringing in the highly detailed small moments, giving the works a zoom-in, zoom-out dynamic," Johnson told us about the shift of focus informed with such a blend of different styles. —Sasha Bogojev