JTF (just the facts): A total of 37 color photographs, framed in blond wood with no mat, and hung in the large gallery space, further separated by two dividing walls. The archival pigment prints come in two sizes 24×30 (or reverse), in editions of 10, and 40×50 (or reverse), in editions of 5; there are 25 small images and 12 large images in the exhibition. All of the works were made between 2006 and 2008. The show was curated by Elizabeth Brown. A monograph of this project has been recently published by Aperture and is available in the shop for $40 (here). (Installation shots at right.)
Fast forward a century and the scene has changed dramatically. Cut logs are now stacked in huge yards, entire landscapes have been clear cut, and seedlings are grown in greenhouses. The balance of power has noticeably reversed – man is no longer looking up at nature, but is now peering down trying to “manage” it for optimum profitability. The scale has increased dramatically: boards and planks multiply, sawdust piles up, and lumber offices stand ready to organize it all. And yet, the boom has already come and gone, and we’re now left on the other side of the expansion, looking back at what happened and trying to make sense of the lost jobs, the empty fisheries, the crumbling dams and the ecological failure.
Stylistically, Johnson is travelling down a thoroughly American road, mixing understated portraits and unexpected landscapes in the same long form project – there are compositional connections to Joel Sternfeld, Mitch Epstein and Alec Soth, as well as tangential ties to other images of the region made by Robert Adams (West from the Columbia) and Frank Gohlke (Mount Saint Helens). Johnson is telling his complex story via the aggregation of many small pieces and vignettes that together paint a bigger picture of life in these communities: grey skies, dead fish, abandoned moss covered houses, truck cabs, hollow-eyed workers, salmon jerky, dryer lint artwork, and a dispiriting array of things for sale (sweaters, firewood, rusty trucks, Star Wars memorabilia, and porn).
- Artist site (here)
- Henry Art Gallery, 2009 (here)
- Reviews: Artforum (here, scroll down), Another Bouncing Ball (here)
- Book Review: Conscientious (here)
- Interview: Ahorn (here)