Musée de la Villa les Camélias in Cap d’Ail, France, presents La révélation de Meyreuil, an exhibition of 50 small paintings by Bay Area artist Mitchell Johnson, on view from May 17 through September 29, 2024. Spanning four decades, the show explores the relationship between Johnson’s early work from Europe with recent paintings from California, New England, and New York.

In 1989, at the age of 25, Mitchell Johnson left New York for his first trip to Europe — a voyage that would launch a lifetime of interaction with color. Landing in Gotland, Sweden, and making his way south to Meyreuil, France, he was drawn to and overwhelmed by the new landscapes and unfamiliar colors and patterns. Driven by a powerful instinct to translate what he saw into paintings, he returned again and again to work on location and to study in museums.

Donald Kuspit on Johnson’s early Meyreuil work:

But where Cezanne fetishized Mont St. Victoire, implicitly a symbol of his delusion of grandeur— climbing and conquering it with his art, he became a Moses giving new commandments about making art — Johnson is down to earth, indeed, in the streets of Meyreuil and the countryside around it.  He allows the objects he finds there their everyday autonomy even as he finds aesthetic value in them, rather than reduces them to anonymous abstract form as Cezanne tends to do. ‘Treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone,’ he wrote to Emile Bernard, that is, emphasize and extract its geometry — make it self-evident. Is the difficulty, effort of doing that — of abstracting the geometrical essence of a concrete thing — the reason for what Picasso called ‘Cezanne’s anxiety?’ In sharp contrast, Johnson’s paintings convey what I would call the serenity of self-possession — the calm of mature self-certainty. Where Cezanne was a proto-modernist, making representational works that were implicitly abstract, Johnson is a post-modernist, making abstract works that are implicitly — often explicitly — representational. He is a master of both modes, seamlessly integrating them to memorable effect, for memory at its most insistent is an abstract representation — an aesthetic epiphany.

La révélation de Meyreuil is on view May 17–September 29, 2024, at Musée de la Villa les Camélias in Cap d’Ail, France.

For more information, visit mitchelljohnson.com and follow him on Instagram at @mitchell_johnson_artist.

Mitchell Johnson, “Meyreuil (Vineyard)” (1990), oil on canvas, 16×24 inches (© Mitchell Johnson)

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