I’m already missing the recent past when the temperature and my age sometimes coincided (low seventies). I threw a tarp over collards, arugula, lettuce, and cilantro during the first frost, managed to prolong my garden’s life and thus, perhaps, my personal summer.
October does have its good points. The color of leaves, for one, and Adolph is on a tree-drawing binge. Halloween, for another, when skeletons, pirates, and witches stream down Shorewood streets. Then there’s Gallery Night and Day, the seasonal reminder that the Milwaukee art scene is very much alive. The fall Gallery Night is Halloween’s precursor. People stream down the streets, but don’t have to ring doorbells, don’t have to trick or treat. They walk into the galleries, grab a handful of chips or a few pistachios, and gaze at art.
I used to love being part of the stream and visiting all the shows. Now that we have a gallery, I’m out of the main stream. I’m there, in our gallery on Gallery Night (Friday, October 16), and the stream has to come to me. Here’s a summary of the shows I’m connected with, and links to some of the work:
ERIKS JOHNSON, paintings & drawings
Rosenblatt Gallery featured artist (181 N Broadway, second floor)
ELI ROSENBLATT , paintings
Artasia Gallery (181 N Broadway, first floor)
Cuvee (181 N Broadway, third floor)
Carte Blanche Studios (1024 S 5th)
ADOLPH ROSENBLATT, sculpture
Rosenblatt Gallery (181 N Broadway, second floor)
East Side Library (1910 E North Ave)
Rosenblatt Gallery (181 N Broadway, second floor), paintings & drawings
Riverwest Co-op Cafe (733 E Clarke St), lithos of dancers
Here's Eriks' artist statement: Games of Solitaire” works by Eriks Johnson
I started playing games of Solitaire. I remember my grandfather playing the same game in the living room of the house I now live in. It was a very comfortable groove to settle into. I liked the rhythm of the cards turning over and the configuration of the stacks of cards at the end of each game. I became interested in how 52 cards organized under four different patterns creating sets of 13 was divided in half by two colors. Or to put it another way, how a set a 13 hierarchical cards was mirrored once in the same color but different suit and then those two units were again mirrored in the next color. I became interested in how there was a quadrant quietly organizing a smaller group of information into a larger manifestation of units. It’s easy to notice a number of things are organized by a quite quadrant. The one’s that caught my eye where my grandmother’s loom weavings, Native American bead work, some plants, my dogs, our bodies. I felt like the cards could be stand ins for genetic material, like strands of DNA, and I was by laws of chance and skill, arranging them.
I wanted to see if I could use the card configurations at the end of each game to dictate a set of variables or constraints, which could be applied to making a painting. In trying to figure this out, I drew the outcomes of over 100 games and recorded my win to lose ratio as well. As of yet I have not been able to devise a system using the formulas I would contrive from these configurations that retains any of the excitement or enjoyment that I get from making drawings or paintings or playing solitaire. But in the end, I was impressed that I could simplify my variables and still have a diverse outcome.
This subtle recognition came as a relief for me. It seemed to me that my earlier paintings sometimes suffered from over exertion, like I was putting ten paintings into one. By reducing the materials, limiting the colors, and even the mark making, a new richness is revealed. Even in this low-key approach my Loki nature can express it’s self. In general the use of smaller marks seems to allow the flow of energy to organize the system of the painting. I like the way it feels to make these paintings. To be able to stay close to the canvas and accumulate marks without having to step back as much and get bogged down with contemplative aesthetic decisions. The mark making has the same calming effect as turning the cards in a game of solitaire. This practice of painting seems sustainable to me for both my energy and resources. There is an added versatility to paired down materials. Like the solitaire, I can take my canvases with me when I go up North. I also have started to use far more recycled or salvaged materials. The synthetic canvas and the latex paint were cast offs that I acquired and are ideally suited for one another. These newer paintings fit into my life well. And I hope they do for others too.