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Butt Johnson: Drawing Fast and Slow at Talley Dunn Gallery

The Availability Cascade, 2020, Ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery
 The Availability Cascade, 2020, Ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery
The Availability Cascade, 2020, Ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery

Talley Dunn Gallery is honored to present an exhibition of new drawings by Butt Johnson, Drawing Fast and Slow. The exhibition will run from Saturday, March 7 – April 18, with an opening reception on March 7 from 6 – 8 pm.

An adaptation of the title of psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman’s book on cognitive biases and behavior, Drawing Fast and Slow is an exhibition of new drawings by Butt Johnson concerning the nature of perception, drawing, method, and time. Based on quick gestural drawings on paper, Johnson’s compositions are methodically fossilized in slower processes that are numerously layered on top of one another in ink. Some drawings are representational and look to vernacular handicrafts like needlepoint, while other compositions are exercises in process and abstraction. Upon close inspection, all the works dissolve into line, color, and mark. Johnson’s drawings are technically rigorous, visually engaging, and conceptually challenging. His multi-layered works, like his pseudonym, look to the slippery ways in which context and social structures can influence vision, attention, and aesthetics.

Johnson’s work explores art historical genres, themes in popular culture, technology, and craft, and drawing as an intellectual pursuit. He creates meticulous fine-line drawings and prints, often using media such as markers, gel pens, screen print, letterpress, and digital risograph—materials not traditionally associated with fine art. The artist is invested in pushing the technical and conceptual boundaries of drawing, finding new and novel ways of interrogating one of the most ancient of art forms. Johnson adopts techniques analogous to engraving as well as vernacular craft traditions such as embroidery with commonplace materials such as ballpoint pens.

The finished works are all based on quick drawings using either pencil or marker. They are then systematically embellished with ballpoint or gel ink. The abstract works derive from pencil drawings that are added to with parallel lines, either in one or multiple directions, encasing the gestures in ink. When completed, the initial pencil sketches are erased. In the representational works, Johnson creates the base form using color markers, which he draws on top of with ballpoint or gel pens. He alternates colors and pen inks to a pointillist-like effect.

Johnson’s abstract works are all titled after heuristics and experiments in problem solving and decision making, alluding to art market systems. Johnson is interested in the favored contexts that generate perceptions of artworks that obscure the position of the artist who is viewed outside of many social and class hierarchies. The artist’s pseudonym “Butt Johnson” nods towards the opaque social systems involved in artmaking, authorship, and the art market, while ceding his own participation in many of the same structures.

Johnson’s abstract works are all titled after heuristics and experiments in problem solving and decision making, alluding to art market systems. Johnson is interested in the favored contexts that generate perceptions of artworks that obscure the position of the artist who is viewed outside of many social and class hierarchies. The artist’s pseudonym “Butt Johnson” nods towards the opaque social systems involved in artmaking, authorship, and the art market, while ceding his own participation in many of the same structures.

Butt Johnson (b. 1979, Suffern, NY) received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001. Johnson’s work has been exhibited by institutions around the United States, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the International Print Center of New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson; the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art; the FLAG Art Foundation, New York; and the Abrons Art Center, New York. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Fellowship. His work is housed in several public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas; the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, Rhode Island; and the New York Public Library.

Talley Dunn Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment. Drawing Fast and Slow will be on view concurrently at the gallery with Francesca Fuchs: Painting and Mugs.

The Clustering Illusion, 2013, Ink on paper, 20 ½ x 20 inches, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery
The Clustering Illusion, 2013, Ink on paper, 20 ½ x 20 inches, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery

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Written by Verónica López

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