Freight+Volume is pleased to present Cap’n Crunch, Ezra Johnson's fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. This new body of work is a continuation of themes and ideas cultivated over several years and expressed between the mediums of painting, stop-frame animation, and sculpture - a fluidity of materials and formats that has been a hallmark of Johnson’s practice since 2004.
The title Cap’n Crunch comes from the breakfast cereal of the same name - a mass-marketed product that both literally and figuratively sugarcoats mythologies of America’s history. The Cap’n, dressed in an American Revolutionary-style naval uniform, serves as a symbol of American imperialism and the related cliches and mythologies, as well as a beacon of hope for the artist that we might learn to shed these beliefs. Pirate shows a romanticized buccaneer (Tampa), a little beaten up, but proudly steering his vessel from some heroic or violent encounter with another boat. He wears all the accoutrements of his trade, including a peg-leg and eyepatch; he is a tragic figure, reduced to signs of his identity by a painter with equal drive towards figuration and abstraction.
The artist also takes inspiration from tropical, worn-out and faded cities like Tampa, Florida, where he is currently based. Johnson depicts the Florida landscape in works such as Neurology, moved by the sun-bleached colors and vacant spaces, lush vegetation and old signs, no longer legible. A series of paintings on paper show objects under the canopy of the giant live oak trees and the simplified forms their curved branches make. These works are juxtapositions of scale as well as a vision of nature looming over the feeble endeavors of humans. In particular, Trees in My Backyard references the site of the only Civil War battle to take place in Tampa, a mere 200 meters from the artist's home, and the fact that the titular trees which populate Johnson’s daily life have borne witness to the tides of history.
Johnson’s work approaches painting as a crossroad where personal responses can be made to the world-at-large. The works in this exhibition explore the presence of historical themes alongside current politics and personal images, while simultaneously playing with formal possibilities explored by heroes such as Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Sonia Delaunay. The resulting body of work investigates the intersection between public versus private, historical versus contemporary, and formal versus topical considerations.