Johnie Thornton, a self-taught California native, blends photorealistic figures with engrossing geometric and otherworldly backdrops. His current work features those familiar, blue-toned characters, recalling pieces previously featured on Hi-Fructose. But the setting that envelops them has evolved into something more hypnotic—and somehow, more dangerous.
Take the 14-by-14 inch oil painting “Black Gold White Plight,” shown above, which contains a chiseled visage that appears to poke through a gilded space-time fabric. “Sometimes You’re Nothing But Meat,” below, is where we find Thornton’s new work at its most vulnerable, a paper-bagged head otherwise exposed to the world. The ending aesthetic, as described by the artist, is one of “ease and discomfort.” Viewers are drawn in, but the question then becomes, “Now, where am I?”
This month, Thornton is part of the group show Face in the Crowd at Art Share Los Angeles, sharing the line-up with the likes of Alia Adoibrahim, Holly Boruck, Minas Halaj, and others. His latest solo show, which kicked off April 1, occupies the Woodman/Shimko Gallery in Palm Springs.
Through the artist’s Instagram, fans find that although the aesthetic is futuristic—and could be easily cited as digital by the casual onlooker—much of his process is centuries-old. Piece by piece, he breaks down the layers of a given work. And through the elements of oil, gold leaf, and aerosol, his latest creations don’t seem to belong to any one century, in particular. Follow along with his process yourself here, and find more of Thornton’s work on his website, here.