Koenig Books, 2015, Softcover, 208 pages, 22.5 × 15 cm
As part of a generation of artists that emerged in the US in the early 1980s, Johnson is the ‘artist’s artist’ par excellence, highly respected by fellow practitioners and students but little known outside of these circles.
This publication addresses this glaring bibliographic gap by offering an accessible overview of his work, through analyses of some of his main preoccupations: queer politics, the urban landscape of L.A and Hollywood mythologies. Alongside numerous illustrations of Johnson’s artworks spanning his career from the early 1980s to the present, the book also includes images specially selected by the artist from his personal archives and other sources. Among these are photographs by Mel Roberts and from the Athletic Model Guild.
Johnson’s work bears the marks of a generation of artists sampling readymade images and texts to create seductively laconic pictures. Yet the colourful sheen of his photo-based works is also a foil for sexual, political and semantic tensions. The artist’s pictures are encryptions of a Hollywood demi-monde, referring to the cultures from which his work emerges – queer, political, filmic and theoretical.
This rich visual selection provides a unique perspective on Johnson’s personal connections to queer history, the city of Los Angeles – where he has lived all his life – and to American politics.