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Calm / Chaos: Work by Aja Johnson

November 6 – December 1, 2017

Reception: Thursday, November 9, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Aja Johnson Mines Personal Art History at the Chandler Gallery

“I think a lot of artists do not like to look back at old work or even be associated with it,” says artist Aja Johnson. “But I believe there is very important artistic genetic code buried deep in those earlier works.” Johnson’s upcoming show at the Chandler Gallery charts her artistic journey from monochromatic pen-and-inks to intensely colorful acrylics. The abstract drawings and paintings convey, according to Johnson, a “desire for communication, catharsis or release.”

Johnson titles one series “Mental Maps,” but this phrase could easily describe much of her artwork. Earlier pieces use meticulous, occasionally explosive lines and shapes that hint at interior as well as exterior geography. More recent works are pageants of color splashed, scraped, scribbled and dripped across the paper, emotion embedded in the leaps from hue to hue. With titles such as “Heard You’re Moving,” “Blame It On The Adderall,” “Nap Time,” and “Bounce Back,” each piece simultaneously evoke circumstances and feelings.

“My younger son has autism,” says Johnson. “And throughout the process of learning how to best support him, my art practice has provided me an outlet to express extremes of emotion, as well as a completely new vocabulary and vernacular to work with.” She also cites “political frustration” as a source for some of her more “frenetic” pieces.

The artist’s favorite piece is more serene. “Grid III” is a simple, 6×8 grid of squares suggesting a tiled wall or floor. Coffee, salt, pencil and acrylic create a gentle staining that blurs some of the lines and subtly darkens the squares from left to right. Johnson says that in creating the “Grid” series, she focused on “how our physical presence helps to quicken the erosion or decay of everything around us…these grid paintings…explore phases of decay, and how beautiful that process can actually be.”

“Calm/Chaos” is on display at the Chandler Gallery from November 6 through December 1. The opening reception will be held on November 9 from 6-8pm. The Chandler Gallery is a program under the umbrella of the Agassiz Baldwin Community, a private, non-profit organization that has provided quality programs and services in the Cambridge community for over 40 years. Agassiz Baldwin Community also manages Maud Morgan Arts, a full arts program of classes and workshops for all ages. Maud Morgan Arts works to reflect the diversity of talents of the community, bringing people together to make art, share art, and support visual arts education.