Rindon Johnson’s art always seems to start out from somewhere in the middle, charting a course without any definitive end. The artist foregrounds the tensions within familiar binaries and systems of value—abstraction/representation, human/animal, waste/product—drawing the viewer into open-ended exploration. As nearly like the day. (all works 2022), for example, is the latest in Johnson’s series of cowhide pieces. Here, the artist quietly and elegantly decontextualizes the skin as a byproduct of the livestock industry by exposing it to the elements, bleaching it, and stretching the material over a support, as though it were a painting. The “picture’s” abstract patterning acts as a window, connecting the world it indexes to the gallery space.
Two similar portals occupy the same room. Both free-standing, stained-glass screens, the warmly hued Where does the tongue lead the food (screen) and the coolly colored Slick meddling elbow deep errant ornament (canyon) are abstractions that experience all kinds of subtle shifts throughout the day as the sunlight pours into the gallery. When they are at their most luminous, the works turn opaque and reflect their light brilliantly through the gallery, simultaneously blinding the viewer while drawing them into the objects’ shimmering, polychromatic depths.
Johnson’s ethos is most clearly felt in the immersive video game The Bells Pursuing One Another, produced in collaboration with the artist Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork. Following the conventions of first-person shooters, the player is a Cuvier’s beaked whale, the creature from which the exhibition, “Cuvier,” takes its title. This type of game typically lets the player see the world directly through the eyes of the character, but that POV here is obscured, since this type of animal navigates water primarily through sound. Indeed, the player has no choice but to grapple with the blind spots. As with much of Johnson’s art, the game forces the viewer out of their own skin and into murkier terrain.