Artist Statement:

My work investigates the imagery of the American Mythic West and its impact on cultural and visual language. In particular, I am interested in how regional iconography spills out into an array steadfast American convention associated with cinematic texture, theatrical depictions, and literary drama.

The critical element in my work is the association of a setting with its human attachment, or simply the romance of place. Paintings may feature bombastic casino signs reduced to simple hand-painted shapes on a featureless color field. Some work uses nostalgic family-album style photos in screen-print-style paint on canvas. Other works present images of the crowded intersections of L.A. boulevards while elegant palm trees remind us that we are in the Golden State, or is it just Tinsel Town? In 2008, I drove from Texas to Santa Monica, California and digitally recorded the entire trip, unedited, from a camera mounted on the passenger seat of my vehicle.

Specific locations have both logistic and cultural underpinnings that enable their identity. For instance, Las Vegas—as a place—is often presented as a magical arena of potential treasure and adventure. There are countless cinema narratives that have capitalized on the rich veneer of the Vegas Strip. In most cases, the city is cast as itself much like a supporting role. In 1988’s Rain Man, the character of Las Vegas provides a kind of Deus ex machina that resolves a major narrative conflict and delivers high redemption for the protagonists. Indeed, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and the landscape of the southwest are, from a cultural perspective, far more than physical locations; they provide a mythic cultural substrate from which a type of secular transcendence can prevail. While New York City, Chicago, and the rust belt are commonly depicted as places from which to escape, the West remains mythic, and very much worthy of a journey to—as so elegantly posited by Jack Kerouac in On The Road. In general, the theme of the West as a place to move through, to, or in, is present in all of my creative research and artistic endeavors. 


Johnny Robertson

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