Gallery View: A rare opportunity
The work of artist Cletus Johnson is on view this month at Nina Freudenheim Gallery. Known for his meticulously crafted, internally lit, shadowbox constructions, as well as equally fastidious mixed media collages, Johnson’s work is seen all too infrequently in Buffalo.
Born in New Jersey, Johnson worked for many years in New York City. He was represented by Leo Castelli, the legendary contemporary art dealer and gallery owner who is famous for advancing the careers of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. In 1974, Johnson was described by New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer as the “outstanding talent” of an eighteen-gallery “New Talent” festival in New York City. Some of the artist’s most evocative work was done in collaboration with the poet Robert Creeley, and was featured in the 1999 exhibition In Company: Robert Creeley’s Collaborations, which started at the Castellani Art Museum and traveled around the U.S.
Johnson has been a resident of Chautauqua County for more than twenty-five years and currently lives and works in Westfield. Last year, his collages were featured at Schroeder Romero and Shredder in New York, and he is currently working on a large-scale commission for a restaurant in Alba, Italy, A New York Art Beat reviewer said of the Schroeder show, “Johnson’s collages show him as a master of the simple, poetic intervention.”
Indeed, Johnson’s work is highly regarded whenever he allows the public to get a glimpse of it. In a recent interview, the artist says, “I make work every day. But I don’t seek out press or try to be in the art scene.” The series to be shown at Nina Freudenheim includes a suite of collages Johnson calls “Pixies,” after a moviehouse where he worked as a young man growing up in White Plains. (The theater was called Pix.) Johnson’s Pixie collages feature vintage architectural imagery as well as many other mixed media elements. Architecture is also a central element in his sculptural “theaters;” the artist is hoping to include one or two of these in the Freudenheim show.
The exhibition opens Saturday, June 2, Nina Freudenheim Gallery, 140 North St., with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m., and runs through July 11.