Better Social Realism and Chromafesto, Dec 6 – Jan 8, 2004

Past: 55 Chrystie St

Installation view, Chromafesto, Canada, New York, 2003

Press Release

Tom Johnson's new show, his third at CANADA, consists of two video recorded monologues (chosen from over fifty he has made over the last several years) and 6 relief "combines" which juxtapose sensually layered clay forms with obsessively rendered figure drawings.

Like many artists of his generation, Johnson employs both figurative and abstract elements in an uneasy congruence, at once refuting and transgressing habitual distinctions between conceptual and perceptual frames. In this way his new works undermine the modernist logic of formal distance, inviting a renewed engagement between personal revelation and social critique: "better social realism".

"Better social realism" starts with Johnson's precise and analytic attempt to assign shape and gesture to his sensations of sexual attraction, anger and rejection. While they have their origin in this closely observed personal space the frame of reference of these complex and provocative works immediately goes far beyond the specifically personal to challenge accepted social codes of self-identification, projection and desire. These subjects are grappled with, not resolved, and all the work reflects the incredibly slow pace of self-understanding, the vulnerability of actually saying what you think and a sense that temperament may be a curse that can at best be understood not overcome.

In the last week of the show, on Saturday, January 10th at 7:30 pm, there will be a performance consisting of a live presentation of the monologues.

Carrie Moyer appropriates the graphics of 20th century resistance movements (Black Panther, May'68/Situationist, anti-war, early Women's and Gay liberation) that were traditionally willfully de-aesthetisized, and embeds them with the un-ironic signature gestures of abstract and modernist painting. Imparting a sense of urgency, joy and possibility through the viscera of paint, Moyer's work re-imagines a location where the endpoints of parallel utopian systems (social activism and the avant-garde) meet.

Moyer presents "Chromafesto," a suite of new paintings installed in a room papered with original silkscreened posters. Completing the circle of influence from agitprop to painting to the wheatpasted wall, she reiterates her sources while adding new language and graphics to the contemporary investigation of politics and abstraction. Moyer was a student of Rudolf Baranik, painter, activist and inventor of the term "socialist formalism."