Conspiracy of Ravens
October 24, 2019 – January 4, 2020
Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new works by Simen Johan, on view from October 24, 2019 through January 4, 2020, with a reception for the artist on Thursday, October 24 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. This is Johan’s tenth exhibition with Yossi Milo Gallery, which has represented him since 2000. Known for his psychologically charged depictions of the natural world, Johan intensifies the drama in his new work, featuring animals in turbulent scenes of power play and theatrical poses. The artist attributes the shift to the current socio-political climate, as well as to his continued interest in life as a play of fictions, shaped by desires, fears and illusion.
Simen Johan originally drew attention in the early 90s by merging digital manipulation with traditional darkroom techniques. Since then, he has developed a hybrid form of image-making, integrating candidly-photographed animals and landscapes with modest studio and location setups. The artist travels near and far to photograph his source material, finding inspiration anywhere from the local zoo to the jungles of Costa Rica or the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Countless hours are then spent assembling disparate images into a unifying whole as he edits, composes and populates each mise-en-scène. The resulting photographs often lack a sense of place which, for Johan – who was born in Norway, raised in Sweden, moved to New York City at age 19, and whose notion of cultural belonging is always in flux – somehow feels like home.
New works in the exhibition present expressively staged portraits and open-ended narratives: two intertwined Barbary lions, extinct in the wild, wrestle for domination against a painted set; piranhas shimmer seductively in dark water; a grizzly bear and her cubs ransack a pelican nesting ground created from scrap tires. Johan’s portraits, landscapes, and narrative works unite to construct a metaphorically-dense world where, as in our own, roles are adopted, dramas unfold and the distinctions between reality and fantasy dissolve.
Concurrent with the Gallery’s show, a solo presentation of Johan’s work will be on view at the Brad Cushman Gallery at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR (October 12–December 2). Other solo exhibitions of Simen Johan’s artwork have been presented at The Center for Photography, Ykaterinburg, Russia; Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden; Olsen Gallery, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN; David Winton Bell Gallery of Brown University, Providence, RI; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN; and the Pollock Gallery at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. His work is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Cleveland Museum of Art; Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada; Brandts Museum of Photographic Art, Odense, Denmark; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Denver Art Museum; and the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, among others. The artist has received several prestigious awards, including a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and a fellowship from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation at Brown University. Simen was born in 1973 in Kirkenes, the extreme north of Norway, and currently lives and works in New York.