Sing to me, oh, sparrow come around
Come around, why don't you come around?
Sing about melody, oh, melody
About the things you see
Anything you want to sing about
Just sing it on out now, sing it on out
- Marvin Gaye, Sparrow, 1978
Devin B. Johnson approaches the canvas like a musician. You hear his work as much as you see it. His rhythm is architectural and expressive with a heavy textural backbeat. He’ll spray plaster on the substrate to pump up the bass through the subsequent layers. It pulses beneath the spray paint, stains, stamps, drips, acrylic, oil, and oil sticks that put the meat on his figures, riffs, and hooks. His subjects have been through things by the time they emerge, you can hear it in their voices.
Johnson paints from improvised, freestyle digital collages sourced from personal and historical imagery arranged into fictional, sentimental situations. Each portrait and tableau is a love song to these intimate, yet universally relatable experiences. The surreal narratives are a visual, emotional onomatopoeia of individual and inherited memories, a vibrant dream journal of the collective consciousness. Johnson’s chiaroscuro is as much Ernie Barnes and Helmut Newton as it is Caravaggio.
Melody of a Memory is a concept album, melodies of the things Johnson sees sung on out now. Existing between figuration and abstraction, the work is a metaphysical bridge that connects the subjective experience to the ubiquitous. You relate to the work because his music is imprinted in your DNA, your genetic memory.
Devin B. Johnson (b. 1992, Los Angeles) obtained his BA in Fine Arts from the California State University of Channel Islands (2015) and received a Masters of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute (2019). He is one of sixteen artists from around the world selected for the inaugural year of the Black Rock Senegal residency, and was featured in the Northeast and MFA issue of New American Paintings (2019). Melody of a Memory is Johnson’s first solo exhibition with Nicodim.