The Gallery at Mercer County Community College is pleased to announce “Paintings and Sculptures by Leroy Johnson.” The exhibition will be on view through March 24, 2023 with an opening reception on Wednesday, February 8 from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
The Gallery is located on the College’s West Windsor campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road in the Communications Building. Gallery hours are Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30am to 4:30pm and Wednesdays from noon till 7pm.
“The unbeautiful can be as powerful/attractive as the ‘professed’ beautiful” –Johnson
Johnson, who passed away in 2022, was born in 1937 in the Eastwick community of Southwest Philadelphia. He was a self-proclaimed “urban expressionist” whose work was shaped by African American history and life in the inner city. Largely self-taught, Johnson sought to create mixed media through painting, collage, and assemblage sculpture within the arte povera movement — an Italian art movement from the late 1960s to 1970s whose artists explored a range of unconventional processes and non-traditional “everyday” materials.
Exhibiting widely, Johnson considered his works a tapestry of the past, present, and future. Former shows include those at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Tirza Yalon Kolton Ceramic Gallery (Tel Aviv), Gloucester County College (Sewell, NJ), and the Camden County Historical Society, to name but a few. He received grants from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Independence Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; and he was a 2014 Pew Fellow at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. In 2019, he was an artist-in-residence at the Barnes Foundation’s public-facing studio on the sidewalk and was a participating or resident artist for many community-based art projects, including at Ile Ife, The Village of Arts and Humanities, Taller Puertoqueno, the Church of the Advocate, and St. Francis Academy.
“I am impressed with ‘make-shift’ structures and structures shaped by necessity. The inner-city landscape I depict is both map and metaphor for the actual landscape and the contents of the collective unconsciousness.” –Johnson
In a 2019 interview for WHYY public radio, Kathleen Greene, Barnes’ curator of public programs, described Johnson as “a constant heartbeat within the Philadelphia artistic scene….always present, always working, and always relevant.”
Lucas Kelly, director of The Gallery at Mercer County Community College said: “I am proud to bring Leroy Johnson’s work to MCCC. An icon of Philadelphia’s art community, through his work, he acts as a documentarian, contributor, critic, and champion of the ever-changing cultural landscape of the City. His work is as much a mirror as it is a scene. Special thanks to Genevieve Carminati of the Leroy Johnson estate for helping to make this exhibition a reality.”
A fan of jazz, Johnson once described how he would like to be remembered: “I want history to see me as an artist who had something to say, and saying it in an elegant way,” he said. “Like Thelonious Monk, playing my own notes.”
The exhibition at The Gallery at MCCC is free of charge and is open to the public. For more information please visit www.mccc.edu/gallery or email [email protected]. Directions to the campus can be found here.