FLOW.12: Michael Clyde Johnson

The Project: Untitled (Two Viewing Rooms, Offset)

Sited in a lawn along the park shoreline with a view toward the city waterfront, Untitled (Two Viewing Rooms, Offset) was an abstract pergola-like structure of two large cubic forms and served as viewing space while also providing shade and step seating. The two identical forms measured ten feet tall, wide, and deep, and consisted of four sides, with the front and back removed from both to allow for viewer passage through the work. The first cube was set at ground level while the second was raised and offset to the right from the first by two feet, allowing the stairs and interior wall of the first cube to continue into the second. Each side was comprised of a series of wood boards set parallel and face-to-face with board wide gaps between, overlapping at the corners. The visual and experiential effect of this structure was similar to that of a vertically slatted trellis, or picture a dark room lit by afternoon sun streaming in through blind covered windows: by allowing light to filter through from all sides at regular intervals, a complex play of light and shadow was created inside and on the work and surrounding landscape, apparent to passerby and stationary viewer alike. In interaction with the work, viewers walked into the first cube and up the steps to the end of the second cube and a viewing point for the surrounding landscape. Viewers also sat on the steps while in the shade of the work.

Through the use of wood slats in its construction, the project alluded to a particular late 1970s/early ‘80 aesthetic popular in the façade design of low-lying suburban office buildings (a design also often used in the construction of brise soleil to shade buildings of glass façade from the high summer sun). The rat-tat-tat visual pattern of board-gap-board-gap – an effect best experienced when passing alongside the structure, or heard if running a stick across the surface – also recalled the conventional design of decks and patios in the yards of American homes. In this way, the project became an exploration of vernacular architecture through sculptural form. Informed by ideas relating to sculpture, building architecture, and landscape architecture, the work existed within the history of park pavilions dating from the conception of the Renaissance garden. As in traditional park pavilions, viewers were able to enter these two rooms for relaxation or play. Upon entering, a viewer was presented with a view through various layers of vertical slats to the surrounding landscape. Light and perception shifted constantly with the angle of perspective and viewer location in relationship to the work – changing with distance and time, inside the structure or out, in front or back. Walking alongside the work while looking through the slats to a setting sun on the opposite side, the effect of intermittent light resembled that of film flickering on a reel.

The Artist: Michael Clyde Johnson

Michael Clyde Johnson’s installations entertain the legacy of modernist, minimalist, and mid-century American art and design. By playfully inverting the stereotypical icons from this era, from elevated forms of display and functionality to occurrences of casual detritus made up of commercial materials, the artist questions the purpose of these objects with subdued theatricality. He studied at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska (BA 2004) and Hunter College, New York, New York (MFA, 2009).

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