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Archive of Past Exhibitions

Working On It - Part One

Elizabeth Bernstein
Carey Lin
Adam Thorman

Saturday, February 22nd - Sunday, April 27th, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 22nd, 4 - 8 pm
Hours: Sunday 1 - 4 pm or by appointment

Martina }{ Johnston Gallery and Royal NoneSuch Gallery are pleased to announce “Working On It”, a two-part exchange exhibition in which the artists who run these alternative spaces create work about each other and their multiple roles as artists, gallerists, curators, educators, arts administrators, (list continues indefinitely…), and display the results in each other’s spaces. The new body of work created by each of the five artists represent widely variant responses to the initial prompt, yet they have in common portraiture, both abstract and literal, as well as various structured collaborations and methods of observation.

“Working On It - Part One”, presented at Martina }{ Johnston, features the artwork of Elizabeth Bernstein and Carey Lin, Co-Directors of the Royal NoneSuch Gallery, and Adam Thorman, Co-Founder of Loop Arts in Oakland.

Elizabeth Bernstein, “Tea and Light”, Ink Jet Print, 20" x 24", 2014.

Elizabeth Bernstein's photographs use light and simple renditions of space and environment to give the viewer a visceral and felt experience that traverse a nuanced and emotional continuum. The images rely on a minimal yet intimate aesthetic that monumentalize and slow down the looking process thereby inviting the viewer to stay and linger.

Elizabeth is a photo based artist living and working in Oakland. She is currently visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute in addition to being the Co-Director of Royal NoneSuch Gallery.

Carey Lin, “Fff Ddddddddd (January 27, 2014 at 1-01 PM)”, Acrylic and Gouache on Canvas, 12” x 9”, 2014.

Carey Lin’s “Someone I know recently ate” is a series of visual responses to snapshots and brief descriptions of meals and snacks individually consumed by Farley and Indira and communicated via emails and text messages over the course of 6 weeks. The project investigates the significance of soliciting personal, yet mundane information from others as a source for art-making and explores new approaches to producing site-specific work based on this exchange.

Carey is a San Francisco-based visual artist, curator and arts administrator: by day she is also the Assistant Director at Southern Exposure, and on nights and weekends she co-directs Oakland's Royal NoneSuch Gallery and Stairwell's, a roving curatorial project with programs throughout the Bay Area.

Adam Thorman, “M}{J 01”, Archival Pigment Print, 30” x 36”, 2014.

Adam Thorman represents Farley and Indira and their home using equal parts abstraction and description. The gallery is full of minor light events found around the edges of the apartment, a result of the copious light streaming through the windows. Lush and emotional, these pieces speak to the mood of the place. Portraits of the gallerists are accompanied by murmuring audio that calls you around the house, and a live video feed of the kitchen is projected in the screening room, in essence erasing the wall and creating a voyeuristic viewing experience. Altogether the many pieces are meant to convey a whole sense of the house, combining absence and presence, past and present, all at once.

Adam lives in Oakland, makes photographs, and is interested in how plainly stated facts can be full of wonder. He teaches at the Athenian School and the Berkeley Art Studio at UC Berkeley.

Please join us for an opening reception on Saturday, February 22nd from 4 to 8 pm.

“Working On It - Part Two” featuring the work of Martina }{ Johnston Co-Directors Indira Martina Morre and Farley Gwazda will be presented at Royal NoneSuch Gallery from Friday, March 7th - Saturday, April 19th, 2014.

Lindsay Benedict
dirty domestic

Saturday, November 16th, 2013 - Sunday, January 19th, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 16th, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Martina }{ Johnston is pleased to present dirty domestic, an exhibition of the work of Lindsay Benedict - projects in various media, including 16mm films, audio installations, photography, and painting. Her works are often structuralist, in that their form is set by a predetermined creative process, yet they are given meaning by disarmingly personal stories about familial, romantic, and sexual relationships. The artist shares works that present her own body as a site of pleasure and conflict, presenting parallels between the various interior settings in which her work was created, and the artist-run gallery and home in which it is being exhibited.

"Untitled (2-month self-imposed residency with my mom)", Acrylic on Paper, 19 x 24”, 2013.

dirty domestic presents naughty and provocative works offering quotidian and daily tasks as principal subjects. The works unveil the different complexities of interiority, shame-turned-to-play, desire, and nesting. Benedict plays with what is maybe dirty: sheets, dishes, self-pleasure, fertility codes, ogling of kitchen cookery, ♥hungry lust, and unkempt hidden public spaces.

Mistrustful of the theoretical, Benedict’s messy personal stories shove/push/jostle for a physical comprehension of works that explore the politics of desire, sexuality and gender through the body. She identifies rigid cultural constructions within herself that she interrogates through socially choreographed interruptions with friends and loved ones, usually in an aggressive way… her process for comprehending and owning her aroused tendencies.

"I’m Drinking My Hand (Roughing Up The Lips)" (still), 16mm film, 9 minutes, 2010.

“I’m Drinking My Hand (Roughing Up The Lips)” (2010), is 16mm film projection of Benedict in various domestic settings using her body and various objects found around the home to spell out letters from the phrase, “roughing up the lips.” The artist describes the piece as “a measured exploration of female sexuality as navigated through quiet (loud!) domestic space. Not knowing much about my own body and what gives it pleasure, I used this filming process as a play-space.”

"Loyalist – I Never Let Go", Photograph Essay, Nine 20” x 24” 35mm still images, darkroom-printed, 2009.

“Loyalist – I Never Let Go” (2009) is a photograph essay of empty, soon-to-be-demolished domestic spaces spray-painted with phrases from the US Declaration of Independence. The borrowed texts vandalize these interior spaces and echo the artist's personal experiences with dependency.

The exhibition will absorb and present the traces of living left by Indira Morre and Farley Gwazda as they go about their lives in their own home/gallery. Opening the space for other public events, Benedict will build a temporary nest to engage with her West Coast community-family while she is in town, as is inclined by her intense longing for home and family.

Four Core Chambers
Curated by Katie Anania

Leah DeVun, Leslie Dreyer, Yasmin Golan, Nick Lally, David X. Levine, Sanaz Mazinani, Christina McPhee, Jeanne Stern, Elizabeth Travelslight, Andrew Voogel, Jungshih Wang, and Keith Wilson.

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 to Sunday November 3rd, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 4 – 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Cor Humanum: Four Artists on Matters of the Heart:
Thursday, October 10, 2013 from 6 – 9 p.m.
Closing Reception including a screening of Open Heart:
Sunday, November 3, 2013, 1 – 4 p.m.

Martina }{ Johnston is pleased to announce Four Core Chambers, a group exhibition of fourteen new works that explore the contours of the human heart, both romantically and medically. The artists involved are all based in the United States, and together their works map the gallery itself as an analog of the human heart, with the gallery’s central “chambers” helping to shape the flow of viewers’ experiences.

Christina McPhee, Hematopoiesis, ink, graphite and watercolor on Arches cold press paper, 52" x 84.5", 2012.

Ten years after receiving a heart transplant, the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy wrote of his continued anxiety on the subject: "What can it mean to replace a heart? The thing exceeds my capacity to represent it." His remarks point to the many ways in which the human heart is imagined, and how these conflicting metaphors render it an ongoing problem in the visual arts. Ever since the fifth century when Aristotle connected the character of various animals to the size and durability of their hearts, the heart has stood in at different historical moments as a center of thought, emotion, and reason. Today, medical technologies such as transcatheter valves and subcutaneous implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (S-ICDs) help to frame the heart as a sophisticated motor that can be repaired and augmented through scientific intervention. Clinical trials since the 1980s, however, have revealed the limits of the total artificial heart (the longest survival time for transplantees has been 612 days), so while it does not physically govern emotion, the heart may well be truly, fully irreplaceable. A re-envisioning of this organ is in order, then: as a transport system, a center of romance, or, as Nancy put it, "a dark red muscular mass loaded with tubes."

Jeanne Stern, Still from Doctor Foster, DV, 2013.

Some works in the exhibition explore medical treatment of the heart as a type of intimate relation. Jeanne Stern is an Austin, Texas-based artist specializing in stereoscopic animation; her work Doctor Foster (2013) is a short puppeteered film involving a frog doctor in full Victorian medical dress. The doctor swims to a depressed patient for a house call and attempts to treat him. The extent to which both doctor and patient rely on one another for fulfillment soon becomes clear, and the film's dreamy, aqueous space is made into a metaphor for medicine's nebulous physical boundaries.

Other projects question the presumably smooth relationship between the functioning heart and its visual record in the form of EKGs and other tests. Nick Lally's video work Throb (2013) uses Euler Magnification algorithms to process film and news footage, and reveals people's pulses hidden within the video information. The footage cuts between the original videos, processed videos, and stylized animations to reveal unexpected data within the visual elements. This, in turn, invites viewers to re-consider their own heartbeat not as the "original" to which the heartbeat reading is a "copy", but as a highly relational and contingent piece of information in its own right.

David X. Levine, YES KIM GORDON, colored pencil, collage on paper, 26" x 20", 2013.

David X. Levine explores the synaesthetic intersection of music and color in his drawing YES KIM GORDON (2013). This work is an elegy to the recently collapsed marriage of rock musicians Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. A photograph of Gordon from The New Yorker holds court inside a group of geometric forms in colored pencil; it is equal parts high modernism and middle-school locker collage. Levine's imagined connection to Gordon and Moore's love life illustrates one of the major lessons of rock music-- that heartbreak is, in the end, a shared experience.

Four Core Chambers is co-sponsored by EMERGENCY-USA, a nonprofit organization that provides free-of-charge, high-standard medical and surgical care in war-torn areas. On November 3rd there will be a screening of Open Heart (nominated for a 2013 Academy Award in Best Documentary Short), which follows eight Rwandan children who undergo open heart surgery at the Salam Center, a cardiac hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, which is run by EMERGENCY.

The exhibition is curated by Katie Anania, an art historian, curator and critic who specializes in intimacy, privacy, and various histories of markmaking. She teaches art history at the San Francisco Art Institute and food studies at the California College of the Arts.

Text by Katie Anania.

Azin Seraj

Saturday, May 11th, 2013 to Sunday June 30th, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 11th, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

A selection of works from the show are available for purchase online.

Martina }{ Johnston is pleased to announce “Sublunar”, an exhibition of video, photography, and sculptural installation by Azin Seraj. Seraj’s work is informed by the poetic traditions of Iranian culture and by her experiences of migration across political and social boundaries. Key works in this exhibition seek to raise awareness and provoke conversations about the repercussions of US and international sanctions against Iran, and resultant hyperinflation and scarcity of essential goods. These specific concerns are given weight by the artist's story of loss and displacement, and grounded in universal elemental symbols: water, earth, light. Through a creative process that is open to chance, unexpected beauty finds its way into works that are complex, visually lush, and profoundly personal.

Still from “Lullaby”, DV, 8:47, 2013.

The video "Lullaby" explicitly addresses the effects of sanctions on Iran, contrasting a recording of President Obama's speech announcing the latest sanctions with appropriated documentary footage of ordinary Iranians suffering from lack of access to essential products such as medical supplies. The artist weaves these stark images together with her own more atmospheric footage of children wishing each other "Happy Nowruz" under a full moon in Dehkadeh, Iran. Blocks of ice, dyed and arranged to resemble the Iranian flag, slowly melt and drip into water, making smoky swirls in the murk, raising questions about national belonging and survival. The conversation provoked by "Lullaby" is expanded in another video piece, "Kaseye Sabr Labriz Mishavad / Bowl of Patience", in which four Iranians tell stories about the effects of the sanctions on their daily lives. These interviews are projected into a bowl of water that shimmers with reflected light, on the verge of overflowing.

Still from “Kaseye Sabr Labriz Mishavad / Bowl of Patience”, DV, 24:54, 2012.

Iranian currency is another primary conceptual and visual motif of the show. "11,111" formally displays the 1, 10, 100, 1000, and 10,000 toman bills, an understated reference to the runaway inflation that has made it difficult for ordinary Iranians to obtain basic goods. To create "Infant Formula", Seraj removed a container of Similac from an American pharmacy, wrapped it in the elaborately designed Iranian bills, and returned it to the shelf. The photographic documentation of this act projects the scarcity of a ubiquitous, essential product into a space familiar to American viewers, while calling attention to society's most vulnerable people.

“Bakers”, Archival Inkjet Print, 12” x 18”, 2013.

Seraj further explores her interest in the effect of macroeconomic policy on individuals in a small series of carefully observed photographs. The work depicts laborers and consumers in marketplace settings in Tehran and Shiraz, documenting the buying and selling of basic domestic goods, such as bread and clothing, while attempting to capture the individuality of the participants in this economic exchange.

“Ghazal Moon”, Archival Inkjet Print, 24” x 36”, 2013.

In the photograph "Ghazal Moon", the artist's camera drifts from the dazzlingly colorful, elaborate geometric tiling of the tomb of 12th century Persian poet Hāfez, to point towards the soft glow of the moon, as if to remind us of the fleeting nature of our struggles in the vast cycles of time. Seraj's works approach the experience of temporality by creating a shared experience of intimate, personal time on the one hand, and signaling an exalted historical time on the other. In the video "Clash of Privilege" the artist labors to dig a hole in the ground while simultaneously filling it back up, while in the installation "Persepolis" a vial of dirt from the ancient city casts an outsized shadow landscape on the wall.

Still from “Whisper My Name”, DV, 4:14, 2009.

The video "Whisper My Name" captures the heart of the artist’s process and search for meaning. Seraj invites us to follow her through the empty, time-worn classrooms of her childhood school in Dehkadeh. With a sense of nostalgia and detachment, she explores this structure and the memories it contains, following the path of chance towards an encounter with the unknown.

Originally from Tehran, Seraj is a dual citizen of Iran and Canada and currently resides in Oakland. After receiving her MFA from UC Berkeley in 2010, she created and taught “Media for Social Change,” an innovative new course at UC Berkeley, and “Art of Video” at Berkeley High School. She has exhibited widely in group shows in the Bay Area, including recently at the Berkeley Art Museum, Walter and McBean Galleries, Southern Exposure, Kearny Street Workshop, and Open Space in Victoria, BC, Canada. This is her debut solo exhibition.

Conversation Continuum
A Benefit Show for Martina }{ Johnston

Saturday, March 9th, 2013 to Sunday April 21st, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday March 9th, 4 - 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

Please Join us for a Closing Reception and Tea on Sunday, April 21st from 1 - 4pm.

Miguel Arzabe, Kim Bennett, Elizabeth Bernstein, Sara Bright, Cassandra Clark, Regina Clarkinia, Ali Dadgar, Veronica De Jesus, Renee Delores, Gordan Deng, Miriam Dym for Suboptimal Products, Narangkar Glover, Aida Gamez, John H. Greer, Lydia Greer, Farley Gwazda, Jessica Hankey, Randy Hussong, Colter Jacobsen, Rose Khor, Kenneth Lo, Cybele Lyle, Jeff McMillan, John McNamara, Indira Martina Morre, Matthew Troy Mullins, Craig Nagasawa, Greg Niemeyer, Alex Nowik, Sonya Rapoport, Amy Rathbone, Nancy Selvin, Azin Seraj, Katherine Sherwood, Jennie Smith, David Snyder, Livia Stein, Ehren Tool, David Gregory Wallace, Anne Walsh, Keith Wilson, Pamela Wilson-Ryckman, Jan Wurm.

Martina }{ Johnston is pleased to announce the opening of “Conversation Continuum,” an exhibition and sale to benefit our artist-run house gallery! We have asked our artists and selected members of the greater Bay Area arts community to donate their artwork, and we have been inspired by their generous response and the outstanding quality of the work!

A selection of the artworks for sale can be seen on a special page on our site. After the opening they will be available for sale online and at the gallery through April 21st.

We have named the show “Conversation Continuum” to reflect our goals - to create a forum for an expanded discussion about the arts, to encourage a sense of community, and to enable artists to sustain their practices.

Since we first opened the doors of our home as a gallery in 2009, Martina }{ Johnston has presented the work of 25 emerging and established artists to the public in solo and group exhibitions. We also support the local arts community with artist talks, screenings, readings, class visits, and other special events. Our artists are given the freedom to install recent work in an informal setting where they can experiment with modes of presentation, interaction, and exchange. Our shows are reviewed in online arts publications and local media, and we were awarded a 2011 Alternative Exposure grant from Southern Exposure.

We will be showing a collection of challengingly experimental contemporary art that demonstrates intellectual engagement with the issues of our time and with the history of art in our extended community. These beautifully crafted works embody the wide variety of approaches to artmaking that characterize our time. More than 40 pieces from some of the most exciting artists working in the Bay Area will be offered for sale.


70% of the cost of each work will benefit the gallery. The proceeds will be used to mount an exciting program of exhibitions and opening receptions in the upcoming year and to maintain and upgrade our space in order to connect artists with the viewing public, critics, collectors, and supporters of the arts.

Contact us directly at martinajohnston@gmail.com or 510.558.0993 to set up an appointment to view the show or to inquire about purchasing the work. Work will be available for purchase online on Sunday, March 10th, 2013 (more information here).

We hope to see you at the Opening Reception on Saturday, March 9th 2013 from 1 - 4 p.m.!

Sonya Rapoport
Data Gathering Event

One Day Only!
Sunday, February 10th, 2013 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Martina }{ Johnston would like to invite you to a one-day special Data Gathering Event for artist Sonya Rapoport's project "ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS?" on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sonya Rapoport, "Impossible Conversations," Photograph and Newsprint Collage, Interactive Installation, 2013.

Sonya Rapoport will be presenting a new interactive project and invites viewers to come and participate in a simple matching experiment under controlled conditions. The results of this experiment will become part of ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS? and will be exhibited at the Fresno Art Museum in May of this year.

ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS? is structured by Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley's "Market Design and Matching Theory", which won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics. This theory explores how people, institutions, and companies find and select each other to create stable matches. The work takes the form of a series of collages; each consists of a black and white photograph of a "pattern painting" that Rapoport created and exhibited in the late 60's, overlaid on a contemporary newspaper advertisement, and juxtaposed with a short text appropriated from the media.

Based in the Bay Area, Sonya Rapoport has exhibited her conceptual and new media artwork internationally. She recently had retrospective exhibitions at the Kala Institute in Berkeley and Mills College Art Museum. She received her MFA from UC Berkeley in 1949. Many of her web-based digital pieces can be experienced on her website, and she maintains an active blog about her work.

We hope to see you on Sunday, February 10th!

Levente Sulyok
All the Paranoid Monoliths

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 to Sunday December 30th, 2012
Opening Reception: Sunday*, November 18th, 2012, from 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.* or by appointment.

Martina }{ Johnston is excited to present All the Paranoid Monoliths, an exhibition of paintings and sculptural installations by Levente Sulyok, who has described his work as “a playful dialogue between forms of commerce and the language of art.” This exhibition serves as a forum for a conversation between divergent areas of critical inquiry, including a philosophical investigation into the nature of language, a reflection on the consequences of the financial crisis, a series of carefully positioned art historical references to modernist abstract painting and minimalist sculpture, an homage to the landscape as a force in American culture, and a provocation aimed at viewers' passive acceptance of received economic theory.

Levente Sulyok, "The Strength To Be There", Acrylic on Canvas, 36” x 64”, 2012.

Sulyok presents a series of large acrylic paintings which use loose, painterly washes of lush color to depict untouched landscapes which read as American, but avoid specificity of place. However, these landscapes are flattened and reduced to a mere frame for the work's most salient element - outsize boxy sprawls of overlapping text, rendered in an opaque white that messily drips down the canvas. The illegibility of these texts renders them abstract, leaving the viewer to puzzle over cryptic letterform remnants.

These paintings are accompanied by an otherworldly music, somehow familiar in texture and harmony, that emanates from the next room. This is A Fistfool of Dollars, a record player modified to play - in reverse - Ennio Morricone's instantly recognizable theme to Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western Fistful of Dollars (1964). Another strategy of abstraction; spiraling backwards, all the information encoded in the record is conveyed to the viewer, but the intended effect of the music is subverted.

Sulyok first saw this representation of America as a youth in communist Hungary. He points out that “most of Leone’s films were entirely shot in Spain, by an Italian crew and props. As such, they construct the West as a fictitious place based on nostalgia and exaggerations.” In these films America is depicted as “a lawless and violent place where characters are motivated by money alone.”

Levente Sulyok, "Where Vision Gets Built", Acrylic on Canvas, 36” x 64”, 2012.

Returning to read the titles of Sulyok’s paintings - Where Vision Gets Built, The Strength To Be There, The Power Of Yes, the letterforms are revealed as the corporate slogans of Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Washington Mutual - financial institutions culpable for and destroyed by the economic crisis. The words, with their crypto-fascist poetry, have collapsed in on themselves, leaving a raw absence in the landscape, yet remaining carelessly and belligerently superimposed on top of it.

Levente Sulyok, "Subprime Space", Aluminum Panel & Blue LED Module w/ Scrolling Text, 46” x 46”, 2012.

Subprime Space takes the form of an LED scrolling text display box programmed with financial advertising language, but turned against the wall so it appears as an ominous black minimalist square with a flickering blueish aura. Similarly unreadable is Surplus, a small box of Marx's works - available yet abandoned, offered yet off limits. The inability of economic theory to translate to a praxis that directly and effectively addresses our current economic situation is echoed by the title of the exhibition, taken from Hakim Bey's manifesto "Chaos: The Broadsheets if Ontological Anarchism" (Grim Reaper Press, 1985):

“Here we are crawling the cracks between walls of church state school & factory, all the paranoid monoliths. Cut off from the tribe by feral nostalgia we tunnel after lost words, imaginary bombs.”

Born in Hungary, Levente Sulyok immigrated to the United States in 1991. He has a BA in Art Practice from UC Berkeley, and an MFA in Painting from RISD. He currently works as an Assistant Professor in Painting and Drawing at Wichita State University. Since 2002 Sulyok has participated in 24 exhibitions across the country and internationally. Most recently he collaborated on the project Documenta Detour, a performance and critical intervention into Documenta XIII in Kassel, Germany. In January of 2013 he will have a solo exhibition at the Reynolds Gallery at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. Also in 2013 he will be unveiling a large-scale interactive public installation on the facade of the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, Kansas.

Anne Walsh
An Annotated Hearing Trumpet, Preface and Figures
Chris Kubick

September 8th, 2012 to October 28th, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 8th, 2012, from 4 to 8 p.m.
With a Reading on Sunday, October 7th, 2012, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

Martina }{ Johnston is honored to present an exhibition featuring the work of noted Bay Area artists Anne Walsh and Chris Kubick. Partners whose collaborative Double Archive projects have been exhibited widely, Anne and Chris will be sharing two distinct new bodies of work.

Anne Walsh, detail of “AHT Preface: AW, LC, SA,” 3 Mounted Photographs, 22" x 30", 2012.

Anne Walsh will be presenting An Annotated Hearing Trumpet, Preface and Figures, a collections of intriguing photographic and text works that represent a highly personal response to the wild, defiant, carnivalesque, feminist book The Hearing Trumpet (written 1950) by the British-Mexican Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (1917 - 2011).

The images in the show could loosely be conceived of as illustrations for the book, or as an “evocation of a relationship,” a methodically subjective yet unaccountable collection of images found by the artist (or that found her) during her research into the book, travels to meet and converse with Carrington herself, and attempts to come to terms with the process of becoming a (fictional) old lady; Anne becoming Leonora, Leonora becoming Marian Leatherby -

“the 92-year-old, toothless, vegetarian, and stone deaf narrator and protagonist” who sports a “short grey beard which conventional people would find repulsive,” but which she “personally” finds “rather gallant.” “She has a ‘death grip on [her] haggard frame as if it were the limpid body of Venus herself” (as Anne puts it in her List of Characters.)

This exhibition is the first part of an ongoing project that includes a manuscript for The Annotated Hearing Trumpet, an illustrated book which “will sit somewhere between the genres of memoir, artist’s book, and biography” and will include historical and critical scholarly writing on themes from Carrington’s work. Anne is also developing plans for a feature-length film version of the book.

Chris Kubick, still from "Surprise!", DV, 2012.

Chris Kubick’s recent work “deals with the meanings associated with ‘sound effects,’ those sounds that are seemingly not ‘sound’ enough to simply be called sounds.” Martina }{ Johnston will be presenting his video Surprise!, the latest installment in an ongoing sound art series that makes use of his digital archive of film sound effects.

Chris’ current series reflects a long standing interest in the way language is used to describe sound and builds on projects such as Language Removal Services. He notes that he “comes to this work in part through a long and happy association with the dark corners of B-movie Hollywood.”

The video featured at Martina }{ Johnston is generated by a program coded by the artist that plays layered clusters of these sound effects. The composition is structured by the choices the artist made in categorizing these sounds, yet it remains indeterminate and open to unexpected events, resulting in an aural experience that is both mesmerizingly textured and startlingly abrupt.

The visual component of the video consists of the titles of the audio files that appear as the sounds are triggered. These original filenames include descriptions of the sounds as well as obscure abbreviations and numbering systems. Reading these words in the context of listening to Chris’ composition stimulates the imagination with a kind of coded poetic imagery, while concretely referencing the people responsible for imagining, recording, and organizing these sounds.

Please join us for an Opening Reception on Saturday, September 8th, 2012, from 4 - 8 p.m.

*All quotes from personal correspondence with the artists.

Keith Wilson

May 5th, 2012 to June 30th, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday May 5th, 2012, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

Martina }{ Johnston is excited to present Collapse, an exhibition featuring photographs, video, and installation work by Bay Area artist Keith Wilson. Wilson will be presenting two bodies of work, the Hyde Park Apartments and Collapse series, in which the artist presents observations about the absurdity that emerges when we try to realize our desires through the creation of a built landscape. Please join us for an opening reception on Saturday, May 5th from 4 to 8p.m.

Keith Wilson, “Lot 77, Freeman's Crossing,” 2012.

We are happy to announce that this opening will also double as a release party for Keith Wilson’s book, Hyde Park Apartments, published by Publication Studio Berkeley & Allone Co. Editions (link includes excerpt of book).

Keith offers us some context for his work:

"My impulse to document the natural and built environment was born, like myself, in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. My childhood world was a cookie-cutter subdivision called Misty Valley Estates. At some point I realized my family didn’t live on an estate, that our house wasn’t situated between mountains and that mist rarely filled our cul-de-sac. Once attuned to this fact I began to take note of the nomenclature and the architectural vernacular used by developers and real-estate agents to evoke the pastoral, the historic, the ideal."

"As an adult, I am simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the suburbs. My emotional, psychic and familial ties butt heads with my ecological, cultural and aesthetic views. I’ve found that the best way to convey both the tragedy and humor of this conflicted orientation is by presenting my observations in a straightforward and unsentimental manner."

Keith Wilson, “Lot 53, Silver Oak,” 2012.


"The recent recession hit Suburban Atlanta particularly hard. In 2006, approximately 100,000 people relocated to metropolitan Atlanta in search of good weather, plentiful jobs and ample, affordable housing. In 2009, that number dropped over 80% to 17,000. One result of the severe downturn is a half-built, desolate suburban landscape stuck in limbo."

"Collapse is an on-going, cross format project documenting and investigating the recession's effects on Atlanta’s exurban fringe, a shadowy penumbral zone Robert Smithson may have called 'the gap,' a blank and void region we never look at. This abandoned 'site' occupies an intriguing position in the American landscape. It isn't the city or the country. It isn't built or pristine. It isn't a venerated, romantic ruin worthy of tour buses (such as Pompeii or Gettysburg), nor a model for future development. It's a site on pause. And while the human-housing market attempts to find equilibrium, natural forces (trees, weeds, erosion, rodents) continue to go about their age-old business."

"The project has three components: a photography series, a short looped video and a site-specific outdoor installation."

"The photographs present a series of protruding pipes in the desolate landscape of half-built housing developments. Originally intended to supply homeowners with basic utilities (water, electricity, gas, sewage), the pipes now appear to be skyward growing totems, watching over the land as it slowly returns to the forest it once was."

"The video, The Sound of a Collapse, is a short video about the end of an American frontier. Shot in the Atlanta exurb of Lawrenceville, the piece uses sound and image to present, quite literally, where the ideal ends and where reality begins."

"The site specific installation, located in a vacant lot across from the gallery, will feature a series of protruding pipes similar to the ones found in the project’s photography series. They too will act as totems of the overgrown plot as it attempts to become the Berkeley Farms pasture it once was."

Keith Wilson, “VIP,” 2011.


"Hyde Park Apartments is a visual taxonomy of an Austin, Texas neighborhood and its various apartment complexes. Flat-footed, everyday photographs of slightly run down stucco and brick structures are paired with fanciful titles such as 'V.I.P,' 'El Dorado' and 'The Jacksonian.' Inspired by Ed Ruscha, Lewis Baltz, and Bernt and Hilla Becher, the series records ongoing attempts to evoke the ideal through aggrandized nomenclatures."

"It took me several months living in the Hyde Park neighborhood before I noticed what the Bechers might describe as a typology: a high percentage of the apartment structures, built mostly in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, were named, and those names were advertised on their facades. Most people, myself included, drove, walked, biked, texted or iPhoned by them without noticing. Then... in walked Ed Ruscha whose early photography books encouraged me to document these structures in unsentimental and serial form. This body of work is by no means high on the originality scale, rather, it continues a conversation that Ruscha began in Los Angeles decades ago. I’m using his strategy to document a beautifully banal architectural phenomenon in a much less (until recently) mythologized location."

"People don’t want to just live in an apartment, but in a villa. They don’t want a parking lot but an arbor. They want to do more than pay rent, they aspire to a lifestyle. I’m fascinated by the degree to which these naming display efforts are successful (or not!). In some cases the name, the font, the façade, and the architecture coalesce into a 'living experience': The Beehive, The Monticello. In others, nothing works: Bent Tree, The Del Prado."

Keith Wilson, “Su Casa,” 2011.

"The book Hyde Park Apartments presents 47 apartment diptychs. The apartment names (on the left side) extracted from their context (on the right side) emphasizes the disconnect between the advertised and the actual. When closed the two come together. Whether it’s a kiss or a collision is a matter of opinion."

Special thanks to Colter Jacobsen and his Allone Co. Editions for making the book possible.

Jaime Cortez

February 18th, 2012 to April 15th, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 18th, 2012, 4 - 8 p.m.
Artist Talk: Sunday, March 11th, 2012, 2 p.m.
Closing: Sunday, April 15th, 2012, 1 to 4 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is proud to present DiviNation, an exhibition featuring new works by Bay Area artist Jaime Cortez. Cortez is presenting a series of bold yet exquisitely detailed charcoal drawings. An initial impression of abstract form unfurls to reveal imagery merged from two disparate sources - anatomical scanning electron photomicrographs and historical paintings created to serve nationalistic interests. They prompt a branching series of inquiries about our physical form and the process of forging national identity through imagery. As we try to recall the historical paintings used as sources, such as David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, our attention is directed to the artist’s choice to render certain forms as bodily and to leave others as void. Becoming aware of our widening perception and the conceptual substructure of Cortez’s work, we are caught in a loop of filling the void from memory, and finding conditions to relate the ‘negative space of the positive form’ to the molecules of our body.

Jaime Cortez, “Blood Vessel” (detail), Charcoal on Paper, 30” x 22”, 2012.

In an exciting counterpoint, Cortez creates an exuberantly interactive sculptural installation in the screening room, which follows up these queries in an unavoidably physical manner. The immediacy of physical threat turns ecstatic turns violent turns playful turns conceptually concrete. We are caught in yet another kind of inescapable loop.

As we are honored to show the work of Jaime Cortez and his adventurous undertaking, we would also like to share his writing about this fresh body of work. He narrates a powerful, intimate, and hilarious story about place, history, artmaking, and identity.

“The first time I was ever conscious that I was looking at art, capital 'A' art, was in the church of the Mission San Juan Bautista. I was perhaps five or six. I’d been attending that church since I could remember. It was always a bit frightening. The walls were several feet thick in places, a fortress-level thickness. The high windows let in beautiful but inadequate shafts of slanted light that never quite dispelled the gloom of the space. The art was Catholic and worse yet, of Spanish colonial inspiration. One small Jesus crucified above a regiment of votive candles was especially transfixing. Bleeding from all the requisite places and from the knees for good measure, he cast his agonized eyes skyward and distressed me to no end. Still, the art was doing exactly what it was originally painted to do in 18th century – to transfix Mexicans and create a sense of awe towards the greatness of Spain and its fair messiah."

“Years later, I visit that Mission as an adult, a long-lapsed Catholic adult, a long-lapsed Catholic adult who is rather gleeful about his heathen status. My half-baked post-colonial awareness tells me I should dismiss this art as the tool of European and Christian oppressors. My queer theory reminds me that the Church Eternal has been no great to friend to me as a gay man. My art history notes with a sniff that the sculpture is a minor work at best. But I am still rocked by that crucifix and I love it. That little crucifix makes a mockery of my politics and 'taste.' It slips past my systems of logic and narrative, laughs at my plodding brain while it hotwires directly into my neural system, fires my engine, and makes me wanna holler, in the style of porn stars, 'Fuck Yeah!'"

“In my charcoal drawings, I am marveling at the visceral power of painters who have been drafted into the service of Nation, Church, and Empire. From countries as diverse as China, Mexico, France, and the United States, these artists and many others across time and place have all been made into public relations hacks. But they are gilded hacks, hacks of the most sublime variety - hacks whose work moves me physically. David for revolutionary France. Helguera for nascent Mexico. Caravaggio for the rising Roman Catholic church. Leutze for the icon-starved United States and Nameless Chinese painter collectives for Chairman Mao and mother China."

Jaime Cortez, "Naprapathy”, Charcoal on paper, 30” x 22”, 2011.

“As I delved into the work of these artists, I was aware that the artist-as-P.R.-hack has a mirror-opposite – the artist as prophetic critic. I was reminded that life is complicated, and that those artists who functioned as shills to 'the man' sometimes functioned simultaneously as wily subverters of Nation, Empire, and Church. Consider Goya’s sneakily unflattering portraits of the Spanish royal Family or Caravaggio’s tortured relations with his Vatican patrons who lusted for his art even as his hayseed models and underaged, oversexed images of Italian youth gave them yummy conniption fits. I honor those prophetic artists who have at times risked their reputations, careers, sanity, and even their lives by lifting their voices in critique of what they saw around them and in hope of pointing the way towards the next right thing.”

Please join us in celebrating this extraordinary achievement!


December 3rd, 2011 to January 29th, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday December 3rd, 4 - 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

Martina }{ Johnston is pleased to present Corporeal, a group exhibition that provokes questions about our relationship with our physical bodies in a disembodied age. Featuring works in a variety of traditional and experimental media by the artists Elizabeth Bernstein, Keith Lea, Darrin Martin, Sarah Player Morrison, Alan Resnick, and Curtis Tamm, Corporeal fuzzes the category of the figurative.

Darrin Martin and Curtis Tamm are showing video installations and other media in a subversive exploration of the medical gaze.

Darrin Martin, "Untitled (telephone)," Digital Print on Arches paper, 17" x 30", 2009.

Martin’s Noise Print Series of Sculptures for BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) began with his attempts to develop a windscreen for his prosthetic implant and expanded into a series of prints that suggest a humorous yet convincing proposal for cybernetic enhancements that use the intuitive logic of sculpture to extend our perceptual organs into a metaphysical realm beyond sound. In some respects similar, the video Naval Mining, presents a scene that resembles the medical experiments reported during alien abductions; a paralyzed body trapped in a shifting, vibrating, otherworldly field.

Curtis Tamm, Still from "Our Orifice," DV, 9:28, 2009.

Tamm’s succinctly titled film Our Orifice appropriates footage from medical instructional videos, using rapid cuts to create flickering edits that exceed our perceptual system’s ability to absorb information in a quotidian manner. The resultant film, both hypnotic and disturbing, disrobes a collective body for whom the borders between one person and another have been dissolved, for whom the function and socially mediated status of one orifice and another are blurred to the point of transcendent freedom or disorienting disgust.

Elizabeth Bernstein and Sarah Player Morrison use their respective photography and painting practices to create figurative works that look deeply at the form of the body. Their work is the product of a subtle negotiation between artist and subject over uncovered flesh.

Elizabeth Bernstein, “Mom’s Legs,” C-Print, 24" x 24", 2006.

Bernstein’s photographs present views of the body that are typically kept private. The artist states, that she is interested in “ways in which our vulnerabilities, imperfections, and foibles define us significantly more than the polished package of modern fantasy.” These images are expressions of a personal moment - behind each is a story about a specific situation in which the subject is conscious that his or her body will be seen. Simple titles, such as Mom’s Legs frame these stories for us, allowing us to access the psychological complexity that is expressed by the way each subject presents his or her body, and the life experience that has shaped it.

Sarah Player Morrison, "Untitled," Oil on Canvas, 60" x 48", 2011.

Morrison’s figurative paintings are also explicitly relational. The subjects in Untitled and Peras make eye contact with the viewer as if to say, “I am allowing you to see me.” Our gaze makes us a culpable third party in the social exchange of the work’s creation, an exchange that is graceful but not comfortable. Each deliberate brush stroke is a mediation between the subject, the artist, and the viewer, each sculpted plane of color an honestly subjective and disarmingly unenhanced view of the beautifully ruinous form that is human.

Alan Resnick, "Studio Visit With Avatar," Digital C-Print and Video Loop, 20"x 20", 2011

Keith Lea and Alan Resnick will be presenting a collaborative digital piece that represents an ongoing conversation between two artists with a mutual interest in the techniques and implications of digitizing the body. Created while touring the country on a veggie oil bus, they used of a variety of hacked, bleeding-edge 3D photostitching software to surreptitiously scan their fellow travelers and render them in virtual environments. But their work is the antithesis of the seamless CG beings that populate contemporary pop culture. Instead they present the uncanny doppelgangers that are the result of their struggles with this new technology, strange beings born from failure, among the first generation of selves uploaded to a purely digital world.

These six artists each share work that conveys their personal, idiosyncratic conceptualization of the body, and their relationship to their own and others’ bodies through lived experience. We invite viewers to reflect upon the commonalities and divergences among the work that may suggest how the body and its implications continue to evolve in our rapidly changing world.

Alex Nowik

September 24th, 2011 to November 20th, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 24th, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is pleased to present Perception and Economy of Form, an exhibition featuring paintings, drawings, and embroidery by the Bay Area artist Alex Nowik. For twenty years Alex has kept the same studio on Waller Street in San Francisco and often found objects in his working space to be the chosen subjects for his work. Objects such as a yellow radio, working tables, newspapers, books, art supplies, and other pieces of everyday reality are repeated motifs in Nowik’s still-life paintings and drawings. Persistent choice here does not equal lack of interest in the subject matter or purely plastic significance of the still-life. Quite the contrary.

Alex Nowik, "Yellow Radio," Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, 2009.

Table. Plugged in yellow radio. Isolated objects in undefined space. In real space these are the artist’s proximate things waiting to be manipulated and subordinated to their user. In Nowik’s paintings, they are carefully chosen objects poised between the image of the outside and the experience of the inside. On one side of the easel - objects - arranged to be contemplated to produce a picture of the world; on the other side - a painter - open to the world entering his being through perception and ready to record this encounter. There is no dramatic significance or hidden ideology, but thoughtful elimination and the exercise of perception. A modest task, yet a profound labor of vision. Nowik submits humbly to the objects and in return records subtle self-revelations.

Alex Nowik, "Work Table," Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, 2009.

The sensual energy of his work also rests in the physical fact of the medium. While under-painting gains the importance of the finished state, the graphite grid acquires equality within the composition. Paint is applied in multiple thin layers of varying hues, building a picture from light and atmosphere. Sometimes the thin paint is applied all over, disregarding the edges of objects and emphasizing the directional quality of brushstrokes. However, the lost edges of forms are then found and reaffirmed by charcoal outlines, as if to settle the significance of objects. For in order to grasp the world beyond himself, Alex Nowik masters the material to become a perfect embodiment of the invisible.

Please join us to celebrate this extraordinary work!

Veronica De Jesus and Regina Clarkinia

May 28th, 2011 to August 14th, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday May 28th, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is honored to host Sanctuary, an exhibition which represents a collaboration between artists Veronica De Jesus and Regina Clarkinia, including works on paper, a video installation, and featuring the Light Temple, an architectural installation in the gallery's backyard which provides a space for contemplation.

The current exhibition builds on both artists' practices. De Jesus' ecstatic, multilayered drawings sizzle with energy - carefully arranged swirls of dynamic uncertainty. She has recently published "Hello Now From Everywhere," a collection of serial drawings which memorialize and share the stories of people whom she admires. Clarkinia's video practice, as exemplified by her recent work "Eat Pway Wuv" makes use of humor to create honest portraits of people both joyful and vulnerable. Together, De Jesus and Clarkinia conceived of this exhibition as a forum to "strategize about new techniques to find peace and radiate joy."

About her work, De Jesus says, "my part for the show focuses on prayer. Seven abstract figurative works on paper include protection masks, open chakras, and prayer circles. In addition to this, I am hanging the Light Temple with sewn fabric pieces and placing in it baubles and pieces of mind-spirit.  Visitors are invited to enter, sit, and be in the environment."

Veronica De Jesus, "Prayer Circle," Mixed painting media, 34 x 43 inches, 2011.

Clarkinia says, "I am showing videos about peoples' hiding places and love dimensions.  They tell stories that zero in on situations where people feel exhausted or threatened, and then follow the paths taken to forgive, rest, reconnect, love, and heal.  These videos are pieces of a larger project: a variety show for kids, with kids, and about kids."

Regina Clarkinia, "Our Time," Digital Video still, 2011.

Over the course of the exhibition, the artists will be presenting a series of poetry readings in the gallery. The artists conceive of poetry as "dealing with the weird skin that borders inner and outer violences and reliefs." The first of these readings is scheduled for June 26th and will feature Cedar Sigo, Jason Morris, and Evan Kennedy.

The Light Temple is a collaborative effort by the artists and was fabricated by Jane Parrott and RH Lee. Parrott is an artist and set designer based in Los Angeles. She studied Fine Art at Bard College and Design for Performance at Center St. Martin's In London. Lee has a BA in Art/Semiotics from Brown University. She is an artist and woodworker in Los Angeles, where she designs and build custom furniture.

De Jesus and Clarkinia see Sanctuary as the beginning of an ongoing project reflecting their fascination with creativity, balance, flow, rest, and regeneration; they intend to bring elements of this installation to other venues. Martina }{ Johnston is excited to host such innovative and thoughtful work.

Renée Delores

April 9th, 2011 to May 22nd, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday April 9th, 2011, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is proud to present Residue, an exhibition featuring the work of artist Renée Delores.

With a sublime attention to detail, Delores crafts objects in an expansive variety of media, always returning to the primal form of the circle — a spitbite darkened ring inked and pressed on paper, worn clothes twisted into a spiral mat, a dimmed kaleidoscope cut from bright old work, a silvered spiderweb replica sickened by stimulants, ashes of a fire consuming correspondence, a glowing indigo image of a scalloped pool, a slag specked ingot of melted down inheritance, a belled and hairy Kukeri chasing life into death backwards.

Renee Delores, "Mare Imperceptum," Duratrans, 40 x 30 inches, 2011.

Much of the work in the show consists of what Delores calls “residue” — trails of crumbs left unfinished or unsuccessful, items no longer of use, effects too painful or too beautiful, entities that bear too heavy a psychic undercurrent. When one lives with an object it becomes imbued with many invisible forces; she considers it important to release these back into the world.

Addressing material objects and perceived notions in her practice has proved useful, for it delivers a great deal of destruction, but balance is found in resistance to permanent form. Much of her work gets cycled back into new pieces over time. "I have been interested in walking lightly, living a life closer to that of non-human animals. This has proved nearly impossible with the way we have 'progressed' but much of my practice has been focused on attempts to bridge this divide.”

The simplicity of the forms belies a near unfathomable complexity, for these basic shapes call to mind the greatest and most minute bodies simultaneously. The circles and spirals are mythic meditations, survey as well as memorial. As Delores states, “[the forms] represent a temporal scape I find useful, more so than the linear scape. These small gestures offer me access to times in the distant past and distant future all at once.”

Also shown will be a rare recording of a lecture by Lucy R. Lippard, whose exploration of the methodologies and images of prehistoric art parallels that of Delores.

"'The deeper an artist sinks into the time stream the more it becomes oblivion; because of this he must remain close to the temporal surfaces. Many would like to forget time altogether, because it conceals the "death principle"... Floating in this temporal river are the remnants of art history, yet the "present" cannot support the cultures of Europe, or even the archaic or primitive civilizations; it must instead explore the pre- and post-historic mind; it must go into places where remote futures meet remote pasts.' –Robert Smithson, 1968

"The beginnings of what we in the West call civilization probably lay in the ‘morphological understanding’ of life – what the eighteenth-century philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico called 'serious poetry,' the origin of all knowledge. Its contemporary counterpart is a nonverbal communication distrusted by pedagogues because it suggests ways of expressing complex ideas without totally understanding them, or of understanding them primarily through form. (The attitudinal poles are expressed by the Roman Cicero – 'If something can't be said in words, it has no meaning' – and the contemporary Frithjof Schuon – 'What a true symbol teaches is not subject to the limitations of verbal expression.')

“In [Giorgio de Santillana's] Hamlet's Mill, writing is blamed for the human race's loss of memory, and with it the loss of that 'strange hologram' that is archaic cosmology. Claude Lévi-Strauss suggests that writing deprived humanity of the fundamental ‘archaic capacity for explaining the world around us by establishing analogies between nature and human life.' John Michell adds that writing has 'seriously distorted our sense of history,' while Robert Morris surmises that 'the past had to become object in order that the future might be controlled.' Eventually history became sequence – 'just one damn thing after another' – and the simultaneity that some think enriched archaic life and could enrich our own, disappeared."

— from "Overlay; Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory" by Lucy R. Lippard, 1995.

Ali Dadgar
including collaborative piece with Azin Seraj

February 12th, 2011 to March 27th, 2011
Reception: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is pleased to present Unbelievablybelievable, an exhibition featuring an installation of Ali Dadgar's drawings, paintings, prints, photographs and performance and presenting Realized Phantoms, an interactive video installation created in collaboration with Azin Seraj.

Ali Dadgar, Unbelievablybelievable, Mixed Media on Board, 2010.

Ali Dadgar's work is a riot...

...of colors, of laughs, of contradictions, and of media, but mainly in the sense of the desperate struggle for freedom embodied in public demonstrations throughout the world, including in his native Iran.

Dadgar's chaotic and insistent installation surrounds the viewer with protest signs, public signage, mash-ups of text and images from Iranian and American culture, maps and patterned decorative elements, and printed self-portraits, with thick, vibrantly colored paint oozed over every surface. But a second glance reveals that the signs proclaim nonsensical, absurdist slogans, with a sense of humor that ranges from dark to puerile.

Ali Dadgar, Cowboy, Acrylic on Velum, 40"x50", 2010.

Says Dadgar;
I have been experimenting with the idea of cover-up; understood in terms of deception, misinformation, censorship, protest, and also as a form of cosmetic/decorative application. I use the act of covering up—with paint—to create new images/texts from existing and found surfaces such as signs, photographs, books, wood panels.  I am interested in the value system created as a result of the cover-up, surfaces and new meanings reemerging with new values.

Ali Dadgar, Death to Picture, Acrylic on Silver Gelatin Print, 40" x 50", 2011.

This work is an embodiment of an interest in the process of change, as exemplified by the political revolution, which cycles from hopeful idealism to tragedy and cynicism and back again. Much in the same manner as the artist's performance pieces, his work is a series of visual and conceptual contradictions, forcing the viewers to constantly reconsider their interpretation of the work. Is Dadgar celebrating the revolutionary spirit, lamenting its suppression, or cruelly mocking it? Is he laughing at himself, or laughing at us, and should we react with anger, with pity, or just with a laugh? And what kind of laugh should that be?

Ali Dadgar, Stup, Mixed Media on Wood, 2010.

By refusing to allow easy interpretation this work can be unsettling. But you cannot disengage yourself because of this work's seductive physical beauty. Its candy colors draw you into an ever more fascinating appreciation of subtleties of hue and texture and an exploration of how the wide variety of materials are used. Conflicting patterns overlap, compete, interfere with one another, and occasionally harmonize, an apt metaphor for Dadgar's conceptual concerns.

Ali Dadgar, Beaute, Pigment and Acrylic on Board, 12" x 12", 2011.

The artist's ambiguous position is exemplified by the way he represents images of himself within his work. Dadgar's printed face appears in many guises, including the unshaven face of the counterrevolutionary Basij thug. What does it mean that the artist is playing the role of his own suppressor?

This line of inquiry is expanded in the interactive video piece Realized Phantoms, created in collaboration with noted Bay Area video artist Azin Seraj. In this work, which is created from iconic footage of historical events, the viewer literally becomes part of the work; a monitor opposite the main screen shows the viewers as a participant in these historical moments. But at the same time the footage is digitally dissolving into the colorful abstractions familiar from Dadgar's paintings, while the audio melodically morphs the images together and sets up a hypnotic and meditative environment. Artmaking has been described as the sublimation of messy and overwhelming emotion into an object of aesthetic beauty. But watching this process happen before our eyes, and to literally become a part of it, forces us to confront the ethically troublesome relationship between the work of the artist and the struggle for political freedom.

Ali Dadgar and Azin Seraj, Realized Phantoms, DV Still from Multimedia Installation, 2011.

Dadgar and Seraj note that this piece is the first in an ongoing and evolving collaboration involving this concept and footage.

Bay Area based artist Ali Dadgar’s multi disciplinary practice includes experimental printmaking, digital photography, painting and performance. He completed his MFA in the Art Practice program at the University of California in Berkeley. 

Azin Seraj, also based in the Bay Area, works with video, photography and performance and completed her MFA in the Art Practice program at the University of California in Berkeley.

Rose Khor and Matthew Troy Mullins

December 11th, 2010 to February 6th, 2011
Reception: Saturday, December 11th, 4 to 8 p.m.
Closing / Art Talk: Saturday, February 5th, 2011, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is pleased to present Brought to Light, an exhibition featuring the films and installation of Rose Khor and the paintings of Matthew Troy Mullins.

The multiplicative effect of technology on humanity's instinct to collect and catalog has led the inhabitants of our computerized, postindustrial societies to think of information as something abstract, disembodied, replaceable and disposable. Using differing theoretical approaches and tools of art practice, Khor and Mullins explore the physical architecture of the archive, focus on the significance of the unique historical object and, in the process of creating artwork, reinvent their personal relationship to the forgotten articles of the endless catalog. Each of their work functions as a model of how to keep humanistic values alive in the face of the overwhelming.

Matthew Troy Mullins, Stacks, Watercolor and Gouache on Paper, 48" x 36", 2010.

Matthew Troy Mullins is exhibiting a current, ongoing series of large scale watercolor and gouache paintings on paper. To create this work Mullins researched and gained access to the private and semi-public archives of various museums and learning institutions around the Bay Area. Based on photographs from these sites, the images in his paintings hint at the awesome scale of these undertakings, while their free flowing, delicately meticulous, yet deeply felt rendering enables the viewer to connect to these overpowering products of human endeavor at an emotionally comprehensible level.

Matthew Troy Mullins, Traps, Watercolor and Gouache on Paper, 48" x 36", 2010.

Down dimmed, climate-controlled corridors, the archive occupies row upon row of generic metal shelving, boxes stacked in towering columns, strictly labeled sets of drawers, and cabinets brimming with outdated media formats, suggesting that the Modernistic grid is the contemporary mode of being. But Mullins has taken down the boxes and opened the drawers to reveal the fascinating contents; with great care each is observed and passed along to us.

Rose Khor, August Moon, Safe Light, DV Still, 2010.

With her film August Moon, Safe Light (2010), Rose Khor has rescued an uncataloged object, one condemned to obscurity by its inconvenient refusal to fit within the dominant historical discourse. Found in a second-hand store, the pile of photographic contact sheets from which this film is sourced records the making of The Teahouse of the August Moon(1956), a film set in Okinawa during the US occupation of Japan and starring Machiko Kyō, Glenn Ford and Marlon Brando, in yellowface.

Rose Khor, August Moon, Safe Light, DV Still, 2010.

Khor uses digital video to redirect our attention. She deconstructs and reassembles the gazes, gestures, and ways of speaking of the actors to expose the propaganda messages of the original film. Her goal is to "redirect our national consciousness towards this history to examine race, gender, and cultural relations between the United States and Japan." Khor demonstrates a practice in which each of us continually reappraise our interpretation of history and renegotiate our personal relationship to its endless detritus. Importantly, this relationship must be as emotionally profound as it is intellectually perceptive.

John H. Greer
with Lydia Greer

October 23rd to December 4th, 2010
Reception: Saturday, October 23rd, 4 to 8 p.m.
Hours: Sundays 1 - 4 p.m. or by appointment

The Martina }{ Johnston Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition Night and Day, featuring the beautiful and profound work of John H. Greer, father of our good friend and fellow artist Lydia Greer, who will be screening a video entitled Audition.

John H. Greer will be presenting two interrelated bodies of work. In the first, a series of paintings from 1998 - 2004, vibrant, primary-colored stripes intersect, swoop around each other, and weave themselves together to form energetic interference patterns.

John H. Greer, No. 3, 12" x 12", 2001.

At first glance, the second and more current body of work almost seems to be by an entirely different artist; loosely rendered but carefully observed brush and ink drawings of simple interiors whose subject is the state of light. On bright days sunbeams stream through the window panes, reflect off the surfaces of walls and furniture and settle into glowing corners. At night the lamp spreads its warm light through the room and the shade casts its arch onto the wall, while solitary streetlights haunt the dark space outside. Then, on second glance, you notice familiar striped paintings hanging on the apartment walls...

John H. Greer, Cloudy Day, India Ink, 2010.

Lydia Greer will be screening a work, Audition, that is itself enfolded within her brilliant animated film A Self Made House. This work consists of multiple takes of amateur actors auditioning for a single role. Presenting multiple images of a person both historical and fictional, personal and archetypal, Audition fuses and confuses the representation with the represented.

Lydia Greer, Audition (still), DV, 2009.

Please note: Exhibitions before Dec. 2010, including the artists Sara Bright, Terry Down, Joan Pijoan, and Ivona Vlasic, do not appear because they were before we began our website...

Current Exhibition