Butt Johnson’s second show at CRG gallery features a new series of drawings, in which parallel lines accumulate and act as instruments for developing a language of abstraction. Originating from Johnson’s use of engraving techniques to define image and ornament, these amassings of lines have evolved as an investigative process, evoking mark, composition, color, and form. Methodical approaches using Ballpoint and Gelly roll pens, Crayola Crayon, and Exacto knife incisions constitute a spectrum of the optical in these drawings. Some are extremely colorful and easily legible, while others serve as quieter, almost invisible interventions into grounds. The works draw the viewer into the experience of looking and point to the passage of time. Each drawing takes anywhere from one to seven months to complete, and can be seen as a kind of condensed temporality; the accretion of moments reflected in the thousands lines on the surfaces of the works.
This kind of unfolding, slow cadence relates to the title of the show, which is predicated on the quaint, and looks to the razor’s edge be- tween value and relevance in contemporary abstraction.
The idea of “quaintness” refers to both work that is skillful, pleasing, worthwhile, and clever—and yet still self-contained as a novelty within the current socio-political landscape fraught with social displacement, random acts of violence, and impending geologic change.
The turn of phrase also gestures towards the titles of the individual works, which are all derived from experiments or heuristics in the field of behavioral psychology. Each refers to known cognitive biases that influence our subjective experience of the world. Titles such as “The Curse of Knowledge”, “Regression Towards the Mean,” and “The Hedge Against Uncertainty” suggest a framing point for the drawings as mediated experience, filtered through both the biology of our attention and our intellectual and economic value systems. This perceptual pliability can also be said to apply to the name of the artist, a mutable symbol full of vulnerability and potentially dubious import.
A catalogue of the show will be available with an essay by Andrianna Campbell.