About the Artist
New Orleans artist Richard Johnson made headlines for the recent use of realism in his 2011 show, "Beauty, Power & Circumstance." For over 30 years, Richard made a name for himself as a contemporary artist focusing on abstract illusionism. His abstract work was characterized by floating bars and multi-faceted objects that popped from the canvas with three-dimensional optical illusions. Many of his earlier pieces were collage and acrylic with strong outlines and a high key color palette. Today his work has a softer texture. Softly lit female nudes pose for the painter behind a visual barrier of liquid droplets. The women are rendered in color pencil on canvas or paper, but the acrylic droplets seem to float in a different dimension.
Richard Johnson has been a Professor of Art at the University of New Orleans for over 20 years. He earned his BFA in 1965 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1967. After graduate school, he was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome Fellowship in Painting and was able to study in Rome for a year. Later, he received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant in 1981, a Fellowship in 1993 at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the 2003 NOMA Delgado Society Artist of the Year Award. In 1986, Richard was named Artist of the Year by the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans. His work resides in over 50 public and corporate collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The British Museum. Recently, Richard was featured in the 2012 publication A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana (Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities).
In the mid to late nineties I became somewhat restless with the art I was making. I had become less motivated with pure abstraction. It occurred to me that I would have to move in another direction and bring something new to the work. At first I began integrating the figure and various other images I had collected from magazines and collage them into my paintings without totally abandoning the abstract. In my first exhibition at Cole Pratt Gallery in 2005, the female figure was apparent in many of the paintings but in a more subtle and secondary way. As I worked through this process my work became more centered on the prominence of the female figure. Now, in this exhibition the figure is the primary subject as both a historical and contemporary model. They are essentially portraits of women from different times and circumstances—some that I photographed using a model and some that I took from other sources. The references to water drops and landscape are a manifestation of the liquid paintings that I did in my last exhibition in 2008. The drops float in front of and around the figure sometimes glowing like glass beads or as rain drops on a transparent screen or glass while the landscape creates a depth to the picture plane.
Updated December, 2012.