The Madame X works exemplify Eric Johnson’s passionate embrace of the sensuality of form. The sculptures are imbued with abstract bursts of color beneath pristine surfaces, which appear to undulate as one moves around their double-helix curves.
Seen together, the series is a celebration of the exquisite harmony of depth, structure, color, and lovingly polished surfaces, somewhat blurring the line between painting and sculpture. Interestingly, the Madame X series was inspired by a painting by John Singer Sargent, and pays homage to Sargent’s portrait of the same title, which scandalized the Paris Salon of 1884. While Parisians were shocked by the slip of a dress strap and the alabaster complexion of the portrait’s subject, Johnson was inspired by the sinewy, vertical curves of Sargent’s composition.
At the nexus of the L.A. art scene for nearly forty years, Eric Johnson’s work bears a distinctly Southern California hot-rod, materials-based aesthetic. Early on, Johnson was drawn to artists whose work also grew out of L.A.’s surf and car culture sensibilities. Utilizing new materials and industrial products, like resin & plastic, artwork of impossibly slick, sleek character began to emerge and was termed “Finish Fetish”. Johnson’s work is next generation heir to this work, and carries forward the DNA of such legendary Light and Space, Finish Fetish, artists as Craig Kaufman, De Wain Valentine, Billy Al Bengston, Larry Bell, Tom Jenkins and Tony DeLap.
Eric Johnson’s works are also acutely personal representations of his life. A severe neck injury, and struggle with intense spinal pain, served as the initial catalyst for his exploration of structural forms, which are also informed by his ancestral heritage - Scottish, Cree Indian, and perhaps a boat-building urge from the Norse. His father, a race-car driver and expert in custom car fabrication, passed on a passion for cars and their restoration. Scouted into the Air Force during the Vietnam war as a fencing instructor (though he never served), Johnson discovered he was color-blind during an eye-exam. Surprisingly, this ignited an interest in color and experiments with layering automotive pigments and clear resins, which Johnson continues with this series, fabricating molds, which allow him to do multiple iterations of the same shape while investigating variations of color.
Eric Johnson attended Valley College; California Institute of Art and received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from University of California at Irvine. Johnson’s work is in many public and private collections, including: Oakland Museum, Laguna Beach Museum, Museum of Art and History (MOAH), Lancaster, CA; C.B.S. Broadcasting, New York, NY; Digital Domain, Venice, CA; Mary Barnes; Leonardo and George DiCaprio; James Cameron; Homeira and Arnold Goldstein, among others. Eric Johnson was born in San Pedro, California, where he continues to live and work.