Untitled (Lilies 1), 2022, oil on linen, 26 x 24in

Shot Winner, 2022, oil on linen, 72 x 48 in

Untitled (Lilies 4), 2022, oil on linen, 26 x 24 in

All the History We Have Together (2022), Oil on linen, 80 x 50 in

EZRA JOHNSON

Infinity Rooms

39 Lispenard St.

June 23 – July 23, 2022

Freight + Volume presents Infinity Rooms, an exhibition of recent paintings by Ezra Johnson.  Infinity Rooms will be on view from June 23rd to July 23rd, 2022.

Referencing the concept of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room, Ezra Johnson's recent body of work uses the idea of layering and reflection as an opportunity for a unique brand of playfulness. Each painting enacts a reflexive staging of staging, a game of mirrors which draws the viewer's gaze to the materiality of painting itself as a world-creating platform.

 

Working from memory, the overlap of simulation and painterly illusion is key to Johnson’s work. Just as the materiality of paint and pigment gives way the illusion of spatial distance and objects not physically present, Johnson's Infinity Rooms becomes a fictive archive of imaginary figures. Like faces in a dream, the figures in Johnson's paintings have all the trappings of consciousness. Their faces and behaviors—readily identifiable and seemingly familiar—have a strangeness about them that derives only partly from the perspectival uniqueness of a mirrored Infinity Room. The air of mysteriousness that surrounds these figures also stems from the way they intrinsically redouble the concept of an Infinity Room in their formal qualities. 

 

In All the History We Have Together, three women are posing for a selfie. While this action seems quotidian enough, one notes that the very flesh of the women has an ur-alien quality about it. The mottled spread of lights around them seems to underscore their absolute stillness as they pose for the picture. From the viewer's perspective, positioned in the same place as the mirror the women are looking into, one must ask the significance of observing a group of people observing themselves. The mannequin-like features of the women, whose faces only have as much detail as is necessary to give way to the illusion of a visage, feels perfectly at home in this painterly context.

 

Another work, Everyday the Chance To Be Here, portrays a male figure—only here, the figure has been multiplied by the Infinity Room’s reflective mirrors. Concerns regarding process, or how one figure can become three, is downplayed in favor of the sheer aesthetics of contemplatively reflecting on this reflection. This game of mirrors, where the viewer observes someone observing themselves, or the composite image of a figure who cannot observe themselves in exactly the same way as the viewer, is an upshot of Johnson's preference for materiality over narratives or conceptual prefigurations. Johnson realizes idealized contexts which simplify a painting’s surface while complicating its legibility. The final result is open-ended, like a mirror seeing into a mirror.

 

Additionally, Johnson will be showing a new series of still life paintings inspired by the lifecycle of lilies. Painted in exuberant colors, these paintings seem to become more alive as the flowers begin to droop. Johnson has often worked with the still life form and his painting practice seemingly builds from the foundation up, creating objects or persons on a sentient stage vis-à-vis an Infinity Room.