Leasho Johnson, Anansi versus The will of nature (Anansi number 21), 2023, Charcoal, distemper, watercolour, logwood dye, acrylic, oil, oil stick, gold foil, gesso on paper mounted on canvas, 52x67x2 in.

June 15 – June 30, 2023

Leasho Johnson

in the Viewing Room

Contemporary Art Matters is delighted to present a pair of recent paintings by Leasho Johnson in the Viewing Room June 15-30, 2023. These pieces are part of the ongoing ‘Anansi Series’, a body of work that finds inspiration from his native Jamaica, with its lush landscapes, rich
mythologies, colonial history and loud beating dance music.

In the exhibition

“In the Anansi paintings, abstraction expands gender and sexuality beyond classification through an embrace of potential, all the ways it could be and is. This reflects Caribbean ways of being with the belief that who we are or what we know is not fixed, and rather always in process.” 1

While Johnson is currently based in Chicago, he reflects upon his own experiences and researches the history of his homeland. The memories of growing up and living in the Caribbean feed these paintings, with the mysterious nature of living as a gay man in a culture still dealing with the legacy of colonialism and the ghosts of its West African roots. “By referencing Anansi, the spider character that originates in West African folklore and became ingrained in Caribbean culture through Trans-Atlantic slavery, Johnson positions Black queer intimacies within a distinctly Afro-diasporic context. Though usually referred to as male, Anansi is a shapeshifter and thus is not limited by constructions of gender or the confines of heterosexuality. Known for his wit and ability to traverse difficult situations, Anansi highlights the knowledge Black queer people develop in order to navigate complex, and sometimes dangerous worlds.” 2 Johnson explores history and how it shaped culture, even as it is felt today. His paintings are layered both literally and figuratively, through collage and painting technique and with symbolism and suggestion.

Leasho Johnson (b. 1984, Montego Bay, Jamaica) received a BFA from Edna Manley College in 2009, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020. In fall 2022, Johnson was an artist-in-residence at Fountainhead, Miami. Most recently, his work has been exhibited at TERN Gallery, Nassau (2022 and 2021); Harper’s, Los Angeles and East Hampton (2021); FLXST Contemporary, Chicago (2021 and 2020); Suzie Wong Presents, Kingston (2021 and 2018); National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston (2020, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, and 2010); The Green Gallery, Milwaukee (2020); and National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Nassau (2017). Reviews of Johnson’s work have appeared in The Miami Rail, Fader, and Caribbean Beat, among other publications. Johnson lives and works in Chicago.

1 Gervais Marsh, What Lies in the Bush and Lingers in The Trees, ( The accompanying essay from A Deep Haunting: Leasho Johnson, Tern Gallery, 2022.)

2 Marsh, What Lies in the Bush and Lingers in The Trees