the eyes and the heart'
Western Exhibitions, Chicago, 2023
For Somewhere between the Eyes and the Heart, his first solo presentation at Western Exhibitions, Leasho Johnson considers the human condition by rethinking notions of looking and seeing, daring the viewer to contemplate what they know versus how they feel about diverging factors of one’s humanity. In his mixed-medium paintings, often executed on paper and then mounted to canvas, Johnson utilizes the effect of Fragmentation as a methodological foil for disruption and coping with a legacy of violence on the black queer body. Combining charcoal and homemade paints as well as natural dyes, Johnson straddles the line between fluidity and chance, as well as precision and improvisation.
Leasho Johnson refers to his paintings as portraits, though he uses the word ‘portrait’ loosely as these works are not representations of anyone in particular; Johnson uses the “portrait” format to focus on more intimate subjects, a moment, or a memory. For example, 'Grammazone' recalls childhood memories of eavesdropping on his mother’s conversations with her friends, touching on topics of silent violence, and subtle acts of revenge between lovers sometimes because of domestic abuse or cheating, remedied by using this poison. The rhythms of No Wanga Gut, a popular song by the dancehall artist Tiger, are embedded in this painting as admonitions of accepting food from strangers. These childhood memories and moments mark the social anxiety and, at times horror, he remembers from this time.
'Free to be constant in my excess' is a painting born of a conversation with a colleague regarding tall athletic women and their presence. Fighting back against the American Far-Right’s agenda against trans youths and the so-called ‘woke’ agenda, Johnson ponders how much both masculinity and femininity are bound up in one body and how gender is expressed in the excess of both what is expected and what is performed but never the ideal of either.