February 1 – March 10, 2023

Two of Us

Dion Johnson and Michael Reafsnyder

February 1 – March 10, 2023

Two of Us

Dion Johnson and Michael Reafsnyder

Contemporary Art Matters is delighted to present ‘Two of Us: Dion Johnson and Michael Reafsnyder’, an exhibition of two abstract painters working in Southern California. Los Angeles is an art center with a rich history of all kinds of art but known for the strong presence of abstraction, from minimalism to hard-edged to rich expressionism. What makes a great art center is great artists living there, working together, supporting each other and pushing the conversation forward.

In the exhibition

Installation views

​Michael Reafsnyder (b. 1969, Orange, CA) received his Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art at Chapman University in Orange, CA in 1992 and his Master of Fine Arts at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena in 1996, where he studied under Mike Kelley, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe and Lita Albuquerque.

Selected solo exhibitions include Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY; We Ate the House, Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe, New York, NY; Sunday Best, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City, CA; Paintings, Galeria Marta Cervera, Madrid; Uplands Gallery, Melbourne; Paintings Blum and Poe, Los Angeles; Fresh, W.C.C.A, Singapore; Delight, Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, TX; Sweetness, Rebecca Ibel Gallery, Columbus, Ohio; Put it There: New Paintings and Ceramics, Western Project, Culver City, CA; and More, Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV.

His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV; North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR; Weisman Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, amongst others.

His work has been the subject of reviews in numerous publications including Artforum; Artnews; Art Issues; Los Angeles Times; Art Ltd.; Flash Art Italy; Artweek; Bomb; El Mundo; Modern Painters; ABC; San Francisco Chronicle; New American Painting; LA Weekly, amongst others. Dave Hickey, David Pagel, Michelle Grabner, Charles Palermo and Michael Schreyach have written extensive essays on Reafsnyder’s work.

In 2022, Reafsnyder received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. ​

Reafsnyder is represented by Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY.

Dion Johnson (b. 1975, Bellaire, Ohio) is based in Los Angeles, California. He attended Yale Norfolk Summer School of Music and Art, received his BFA from The Ohio State University and his MFA from Claremont Graduate University.

Selected solo exhibitions include Color Chords, Western Project, Los Angeles, CA; Luminous Trajectories, Bentley Gallery, Phoenix, AZ; Chromatic Momentum, De Buck Gallery, New York, NY; and Optic Energy, Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX.

His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; Twitter Inc., Santa Monica, CA; Capital Group Companies, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA; Creative Artists Agency, Los Angeles, CA; and The Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH.

Johnson’s work has been reviewed and featured in articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Artnews, and Artforum among others.

Dion Johnson is represented by Contemporary Art Matters.

Making art is often a solitary endeavor and artists rely on inviting other trusted artists into their studios for discussion, sharing ideas and support. Dion and Michael have had this kind of friendship since the late ‘90s. We have asked them each to select work from the other and describe what keeps drawing them connected. The paintings in the exhibition, side by side, show how they each follow their own paths, yet you can almost hear the conversation around painting, thinking about painting, looking at painting and the making of a painting.Going to an artist’s studio is a privilege. The artist is exposed in the sense that you see beyond the final product, into the making and thinking about art. Bringing these two artists together, having them talk about the work from their own artist’s perspective, is a peek into the studio and hear what they have to say. Below are the artists in their own words talking about the other’s work.

Dion Johnson on Michael Reafsnyder:
Color Blast
As a painter for 20-odd years, I feel very fortunate to know other artists who have come into my orbit while on their own art-making journeys. For me studio time is relatively solitary – in my space and in my head, so talking to painters who make exciting work becomes more important the more I paint. Michael Reafsnyder’s color-focused abstract paintings are fresh, engaging, and beautiful; through the years our conversations and studio visits have generated an ongoing dialogue that has been incredibly valuable to my studio practice.  

For “Two of Us,” I selected four canvases by Michael Reafsnyder. Using acrylic paint on canvas he creates quirky spectacles with lively gestures and deft maneuvers; he engineers visual amusement rides with an acute awareness and inventive expertise. Wild experiences are fueled by joyful momentum. Attempting to generate pure energy by smearing hues, glopping wet colors, and layering slippery planes is a challenging and risky endeavor, but when the magic mixture is just right, Reafsnyder invites us on a fascinating trip into uncharted chromatic territory.

In Bubble Blast a vertical blue plane of fluid color seems to flow straight up defying gravity. The grand ascending gesture has skipped spots here and there creating Swiss cheese-like windows in the bold blue surface. These portals reveal an equally active and colorful under-layer. Amid this momentum, smallish smears and drops of color hover like leaves caught in a gust of wind. Bubble Blast’s shimmering blue and vibrating energy is immediately satisfying, and its nuanced peekaboo layers and directional marks are quieter rewards that reveal themselves with careful inspection or upon second and third viewings.

Seemingly comprised of fractured and reflected bright light, Razzle is strikingly different than Bubble Blast. A dynamic plane of blues, whites, yellows, and greens is composed of intersecting up-and-down and side-to-side movements; this area appears to be ever-changing, covering and revealing itself or reconfiguring elements like a puzzle. Atop all the activity a contagious enthusiasm fills the air as yellow dabs and drizzles dance like sugar sparks in this playfully evolving place.

Michael Reafsnyder’s canvases remind us that a painting can be about discovery and wonder. His paintings fulfill our desire for stimulation and take us on an adventure whenever we’re ready for one.

Dion Johnson 2023

Michael Reafsnyder on Dion Johnson:
Peculiar Paintings, Friendship, and Conversation

Paintings are peculiar. Or, should I say, good paintings are peculiar. Not in an unpleasant way. They have a manner of addressing you, inviting you closer for further examination. Unfolding at various speeds, asking for the beholder’s complete immersion into a logic difficult to grasp, if even present. Good paintings generously reward repeated viewing, offering taste treats unattainable elsewhere. 

I met Dion in 1999, during his studies at Claremont Graduate University. Having just finished a lecture on my work, I decided to stroll amongst the studios catching glimpses of the work being made by the various MFA candidates. Dion’s work caught my eye and a conversation ensued, a conversation which continues today. 

We are all experienced in casual conversation to some extent or another. Whether a brief comment on today’s weather or an in-depth examination of the world, conversation binds us together in some semblance of community. 

As an artist, conversation is an integral component to existence inside and outside of the studio. In the studio, thoughts on one’s work, its relationship to the work of one’s peers, and history permeate. Outside of the studio, these same thoughts get bantered around between artists. Musings on the work of friends, recent exhibitions, art history, and technique frame the discourse. Arguments are made, parameters set, and a slow unfolding of thoughts and ideas nurture the community, somehow filtering into the studio.

Our Conversation
For nearly twenty-four years, Dion and I have been in conversation about art. Sharing studio visits, we engage with one another’s paintings. Looking, looking, and more looking. Perhaps we grab a bite. Thoughts are floated, considerations made, debated, and exchanged. All of this happens around these peculiar things we call painting.

Dion’s Paintings
Stage, Vapor Trail, and Zipper, each 48 x 40 inches, acrylic on canvas, draw the beholder in at different speeds, intervals, and levels of intensity. Vibrant, saturated, and glowing, the viewer is offered a feast of sensation made possible by the concurrence of subtly shifted hues, minute adjustments of form, calibrated atmospheric overlays, and technical precision. These three paintings, as well as the glorious Glider, 32 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, present us with a world radiant and palpable, yet delicate in its weight. These paintings are only made possible by a painter of utmost precision and dedication.

This returns us to the peculiar things that make good paintings and good friendship. For both are pleasant in their address, generous and open, rewarding continued engagement. Open to conversations about the past, the present, and the possible future, both treat you as peers who want the best for you, see the best in you, and encourage the best in you. Dion’s paintings, and friendship, offer these things and more.  I am grateful to call Dion my friend and look back with fondness on the day we crossed paths in 1999.

Michael Reafsnyder 2023