Mitchell Johnson Exhibits New Paintings From the Amalfi Coast


On March 20–April 13, 2024, Flea Street Restaurant in Menlo Park, California, is exhibiting new paintings by artist Mitchell Johnson. Created during and just after a recent artist residency at the LeWitt Collection in Praiano, Italy, four of the works in the show reference the extreme space of the Amalfi Coast while four others are compositions found in Versailles and Paris.

At Casa L’Orto — the former home of Sol and Carol LeWitt in Praiano — Johnson spent half of each day painting in the Amalfi landscape and the other half in a makeshift studio surrounded by Sol LeWitt’s mystical wall drawings (five of which are installed amongst the house’s remarkable white archways). He experienced a new context for his work and his response is a return to loose paint handling.

Mitchell Johnson painting across from Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1232 (LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut)

The residency was a moment of intense reflection — and a bit of time travel. Johnson first met Sol and Carol LeWitt while he was a graduate student at Parsons School of Design in New York and in 1991, they asked him to be the caretaker of Casa L’Orto during its renovation. He ultimately passed on the opportunity and believes he made the right decision. “Drawing the extreme perspectives, painting the deep falling spaces of Praiano, I couldn’t help but recall my struggles with scale in the 1990s. If I had worked for Sol in Italy, I’m certain I would have been overwhelmed by the Amalfi topography and surely had a major crisis about my own work. I would not have been able to process the truly heart-stopping views, the shifts in scale of the intimate buildings tumbling down the mountain towards the Tyrrhenian. How fortunate that I got to go to Praiano when I was ready.”

Johnson uses views as jumping-off points for his work, as Chris Busa observed in Provincetown Arts in 2012: “If many of Johnson’s paintings are titled after the places that inspired them, no such places actually exist. Each one is a collage of compressed intimacies spread out over the months it takes to paint them. He has done what Edwin Dickinson called “Premier Coup”, in which a painting is completed outdoors in one blow. Yet his typical practice is to hold a painting for several months, or more, in the studio, to see if a painting stands the test of repeated looking, often involving the process of memory revision, where a succession of impressions gained over weeks or months is expressed as continuous flow.”

Paintings by Mitchell Johnson are in the permanent collections of 30 museums, including the Museo Morandi in Bologna and the Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna in Rome. Musee Villa Les Camellias in Cap D’Ail, France, is presenting a retrospective of his work from May 17 through September 28, 2024.

For more information, follow Mitchell Johnson on Instagram @mitchell_johnson_artist or visit mitchelljohnson.com.

MitchellJohnson Versailles15x24
Mitchell Johnson, “Versailles” (2024), 15 x 24 inches, oil on canvas (© Mitchell Johnson)



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