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MICAH JOHNSON

Mom, Can Astronauts Be Black?

Micah Johnson | Enlightened | Featured Artwork From The Artist First Solo Shot At Art Angels "Mom, Can Astronauts Be Black?"

Micah is a self-taught figurative artist who uses strong gestural lines combined with loose brush strokes to create dramatic portraits primarily featuring African-American children. These subjects, which are often inspired by his young nephews, began appearing in Micah’s work ever since he overheard his 4-year old nephew ask his mother a deeply disturbing question,

“Mom, can astronauts be black?”

Although Micah spent 7 years as a professional baseball player, you rarely see reference to his career in any of his works. He sees art as an independent journey with the opportunity to inspire a broader demographic around the subjects of racial equality, chasing your dreams without limitations, and the empowerment of young people.

The artist’s journey and historical documentation through the lives of his nephews make up the new series. The work is soft spoken, conveying messages of empowerment and the dismantling of racism in a beguiling whisper by exploring the contemplation of dreams without restriction from a child’s perspective. Inspiration comes easy when you stare at the children who are living their dream as superhero, basketball player, cellist, doctor, astronaut and more. However quotidian the components of his paintings might seem on the surface--including scenes of a child pulling the nostalgic red wagon eating fruit or readying for mission in astronaut gear, they are imbued with symbolism, historical significance and intent. Mainly, to inspire confidence in children of color to live whatever they dream is their heart’s desire. Can an artist be black? What about an astronaut? These are the heart-sinking questions Johnson wants no child to have to ask.

Micah Johnson, Save US
Micah Johnson, Levi From The Exhibition: Mom, Can Astronauts Be Black?
His latest collection of his work inspired by his young nephews will document their journey--from a pre-to-post Covid-19 world until the age of 18. According to Johnson, they are the future and the ones who will bring the change that we are all fighting for now. ( Micah Johnson, Remy )
Micah Johnson, RB-7
Micah Johnson, Evolution
Micah Johnson, Set Your Sights
Micah Johnson, Next On The Tee Box
Micah Johnson, 2020
Micah Johnson, 2 Tim 1:7
Micah Johnson, Restless Nights

PRESS

Sä-v(ə-)rən-tē

We are honored to represent Micah Johnson, an artist willing to push the envelope in his artist process who is tackling some of the most important issues facing society today. Micah Johnson has created Sä-v(ə-)rən-tē, a time-sensitive photographic artwork that evolves over the next 11 years, and is available today via Async.Art on the blockchain. This vitally important work bridges the gap between our digital and real world, allowing viewers to donate directly to the children photographed, thus positively impacting their lives. It is a symbolic act of sovereignty, an independent artistic solution to the historically oppressive legacy of the financial system. Every year on the boys’ respective birthdays, a Layer change reveals what each boy wants to be when they grow up along with a bitcoin wallet that anyone can contribute to. Each night at 8:00 pm PST, the work enters night mode until 8:00 am PST. The mission of the work started with Johnson wanting to empower the two youths seeing themselves in high-art, but quickly turned into the most important use-case for Bitcoin. "We're proud to represent an artist embracing groundbreaking ways to showcase his art. In a year that has prevented so many of us to visit museums and galleries and have the kind of meaningful interactions with works of art, we feel it's more important than ever to give collectors and art enthusiasts access to our artists and the work they create," says Jacquelin Napal of Art Angels Gallery Los Angeles. As of today, Micah and this artwork have set the record for the highest selling digital artwork at $120,000

Micah Johnson, Sä-v(ə-)rən-tē , Standard Vision Billboard Feature Downtown LA

BLACK SHEEP

Micah Johnson, Black Sheep, 2021 Solo Exhibition at Art Angels Los Angeles

In honor of 2021’s Black History Month, the LA based Art Angels gallery will be giving Micah his second solo exhibition entitled BLACK SHEEP opening Feb 11th, 2021. For BLACK SHEEP, he uses charcoal extensively and is particularly focused on capturing the gaze of his subjects, their perceptions, the viewers perceptions and their willingness to dream bigger, be different and be confident even when others deem them not worthy.

Micah Johnson, Black Sheep, 120 x 84 in, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas

In this newest series of paintings, Johnson further expands and hones this style, exploring the effects of scale and perspective. Looking at the double meaning of “perspective,” Johnson creates stylized angles on his subjects, hoping to prompt a revamping of viewers’ perceptions -- of them, themselves, the art, and the world. Introducing exaggerated angles and close-up intimacy in his portraits, Johnson guides the gaze throughout the work, presenting his subjects’ monumental, emotional, confident visages in ways both ambiguous and familiar, intended to lead the viewer through their young dreams, and ultimately, back to their own.

These stirring portraits, intended to evoke an emotional narrative through the intimacy of portraiture and as an expression of the black sheep / outcast theme, combine Micah’s expressive, exuberant palette and empathetic, evocative style. Each portrait is anchored by a perfectly rendered eye, set like a jewel amid the chromatic swirl of their complex humanity. As a graduation of Johnson’s earlier dream-focused works, each BLACK SHEEP portrait is raw, visceral and emboldened reflection of the emotional state Johnson was in when making the piece.

A central figure, the female astronaut will also be unveiled. She will symbolize and be a reflection of the historic firsts for women of color--from venturing into space, to coaching professional baseball and most recently holding the highest position of any woman in American history as Vice President of the United States. She is an emblem of hope and progress for our female youth and their limitless dreams.

Micah Johnson, Bold, 67 x 60 in, Charcoal and oil on canvas
Micah Johnson, Transcend, 72 x 60 in, Charcoal and oil on canvas
Micah Johnson, Executive, 72 x 60 in, Charcoal and oil on canvas
Micah Johnson, Imperial, 68 x 60 inches, Charcoal and oil stick on canvas
Micah Johnson, He Dreamed, 72 x 60 inches, Acrylic, gouache and charcoal
Micah Johnson, Gymnast, 72 x 60 in, Acrylic, gouache and charcoal
Micah Johnson, Self Portrait, Mae, Nat King, Each measuring 60 x 48 in

Micah Johnson is an adventurous, ambitious, curious-minded figurative painter whose works embody a message of empowered awareness. His strong gestural lines combined with loose, confident brush strokes create dramatic portraits primarily featuring African American children. His expressive, exuberant palette and empathetic, evocative style combine in these stirring portraits, which take inspiration from his own life, his family, and from the culture.

In his newest series of paintings, BLACK SHEEP, Johnson expands and hones his signature style, exploring the effects of scale and perspective in service of his essential message -- elevating the dreams of children of color. Looking at the many potential meanings of the word “perspective,” Johnson composed exaggerated, close-up angles on his subjects, hoping to prompt a revamping of the viewers’ sense of their own perceptions -- of them, themselves, and the power of art in the world. Introducing elements of emotional intimacy in his portraits, Johnson guides the gaze throughout the work, presenting his subjects’ monumental, evocative visages in ways both ambiguous and familiar, intended to lead the viewer through the energy of their youthful dreams, and ultimately, back to their own.

Each portrait is anchored by a perfectly rendered eye, set like a jewel amid the chromatic swirl of their complex humanity. As the gaze bounces around the composition so does the brain flicker across its meanings, reconciling the pensive stillness and directness of the subject’s stare with the raw and ebullient emotion of their aura. This contemporary aesthetic of hybridity speaks to the internal and external consciousness of simultaneity that defines modern visual culture. It also creates a shiver of recognition as the viewer meets the subject’s eye -- rendered and centered as the windows to the soul they are.

Symbols occur and recur throughout Johnson’s series; text sometimes enters the composition as both mark-making and place-holding. His foundation of shapes, physiognomies, poses, and facial expressions are outlined in lush charcoal powder, scattered and then intensely worked by hand. This results in an incredible tactility and energetic directness, but also a rounded, sensual rendering that is grounded in a mannerist naturalism. The color placement is largely intuitive, but Johnson often begins in blue, which he deploys as a signifier of power, royalty and confidence. The rest is pure expressionism, painterly and organic in its qualities. The duality between a classical, serene depiction and the explosivity of the abstract expressionism ultimately gives these works their power and broad appeal.

An inspired, driven self-taught artist, visual art began as a sort of second act for Johnson, who has been primarily known for his professional baseball career; and it came from a place of heartfelt inquiry. Over time, Johnson searched for and found his unique personal language at the same moment as the spark of his art’s greater purpose. Initially inspired by a conversation in which his young nephew wondered aloud about whether astronauts could be Black, Johnson realized with some heartbreak that representation matters, whether in sports, politics, entertainment -- or fine art. Who makes works of art, who the work is for, who sees it, and who sees themselves within it -- these were and remain central questions in Johnson’s mind and studio.

As he increasingly recognized in himself the familiar drive to succeed, in his creativity he saw the potential to amplify his intentions: firstly, that audiences see themselves in his work, and second, that they expressly feel that their own dreams are worth pursuing. This dynamic of seeing and being seen manifests in the sophisticated energy of the work’s impactful aesthetic. Even as Johnson balances the personal and the universal, mystery and nuance with power and intention, in the studio he balances the skilled manipulation of light and shadow with the fractal intuition of color and gesture.

Johnson is further interested in expressing the fullness of the moment of creation. As he has gained more personal confidence in his artistic talent, like many great artists his work has become more loose, more raw, and more confident in its forms. He has developed an affection for so-called imperfections -- the flush of unruly charcoal powder, the actionist splash of pigment -- as he feels they form an essential part of not only the images, but of their story. In the traces of himself left behind in these expressive pentimenti, as the charcoal powder preserves his literal fingerprints, Johnson embeds evidence of his own hand; the energy of invention and creation radiates from this presence.

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