Kiel Johnson is an artist that lives and works in Los Angeles. His contribution to PULSE were two fold: he had a featured PULSE Project, Studies On An Airship Ride, along with a few assorted, smaller works in the Davidson Gallery area. All of the pieces he exhibited at PULSE were studies on cities and urban spaces told mostly through recreating urban landcapes through mixed media (mostly cardboard).
Similar to the other three artists we featured, Studies On An Airship Ride was a special piece because of the details. Again, his piece dealt with perception, particularly how we perceive urban spaces and how we reimagine, improve upon, or expand on the idea. The piece, which was a cooperative effort presented by both Los Angeles’ Mark Moore Gallery and New York’s Davidson Gallery, is remarkable in its size (120 X 120 X 60) and detail. From afar, you can discern that what exactly is going on, but looking closely you can see just much went into creating this city, from the “Coming Soon” at the drive in to the mapping of the city from less dense to more dense. You definitely feel like an airship when circling the piece. But, of course, that is the point.
In addition to Studies On An Airship Ride, Davidson Gallery featured four other pieces of his: three cardboard urban studies and a drawing. The three urban studies pieces analyzed traffic patterns and how just how absurd urban lifestyle can be. One details a what could be a bank robbery, surrounded by large trucks and many police cars; another follows a scene of bumper to bumper traffic, that the police have rerouted from an accident; the last piece examines the pains of one side of the highway being at a standstill and another being completely open. These moments could very well be slipped into the greater piece that is Studies On An Airship Ride, but leaving them as studies detail seemingly mundane, everyday events in a city that need attention paid to them: why are they happening? Can we fix this? The real life events that they portray cannot be crumpled up and thrown away like cardboard–can we try to eliminate them? These are the things these little vignettes tell us.
Above is an ink drawing Johnson also had exhibited with the small cardboard pieces in the Davidson Gallery section. The drawing details a large, exaggerated city that somewhat resembles a monster. It’s highways are long tentacles, the multiple, stacked buildings are its scales, the antena at the top of it is a 360º cycloptic eye: the city, like the little pieces, represent a monstrous urban area that is crawling atop of itself. It’s very interesting to compare Studies On An Airship Ride with the drawing and tiny cardboard pieces that were displayed: Studies On An Airship Ride, while chaotic and large, is not necessarily analyzing aspects of the city that are wrong, while the smaller pieces are pointing at big problems.
Kiel Johnson’s complicated and detailed urban pieces were a delight at PULSE as they definitely spoke to the city it was being displayed in: a sprawling beautifully detailed item that, in some areas, can be seen as a mess.