There are 2 solo shows currently on view at Joshua Liner Gallery: a debut presentation by Mu Pan titled Bright Moon Shines on the River, and New Paintings, Aaron Johnson's 2nd solo show with the gallery. Both Brooklyn-based artists work with surreal, often grotesque imagery, and the presentation consists of rich and vibrant paintings that reveal the complex work process both artists have developed in their practice.

Mu Pan's show is built around a painting of a whale that the artist created and destroyed about a decade ago. By revisiting this central figure he is now using the whale hunt to explore human nature and conflict, an ongoing theme seen in his work. Through cartoonlike, dense and complex narratives, he is presenting his vision of the lowest forms of human behavior, often using symbolic and metaphor as a tool to tell the story. By combining the traditional Japanese aesthetics with an imaginary nautical world, Mu Pan constructs captivating scenarios in which bizarre or terrifying scenes are intertwining with humorous images and outtakes from the world of popular culture.

Basing his work on dichotomies, Aaron Johnson creates his own universe of opposites, connecting dreams, and nightmares, light with darkness, humor and fear. For this particular show, he painted a new series of paintings that introduce his latest approach to the creative process. After reverse and sock paintings, he developed a process in which he creates figurative works depicting a crowd of character from a seemingly disconnected pool of highly fluid luminous hues. Behind these superficially vibrant and cheerful colorful creations, peeks a crowd of monsters and creatures that vary in their appearance as well as the emotional and psychological state. Without any clear description about the purpose or the source of this unusual crowd, Johnson only suggests a narrative that is left to the observer to complete or create. Influencing it with the wide range of elements, from the playful color palette to zombie-like features, the readings of his work can range significantly. This is giving extra value to the spontaneity of this new work process which basically reconstructs the abstract staining technique painting into a sea of familiar archetypes seen in his previous work.––Sasha Bogojev