g/re/p

Jess Johnson
Presented in partnership with Co-Lab Projects

Jess Johnson brings to life a complex fictional world through hand-drawn images that are inspired by her interests in science fiction, comic books, technology, architecture, and theories of consciousness. For her exhibition in the culvert, Johnson has collaborated with her Mother, Cynthia Johnson, on a new series of quilts. They appear suspended in the culvert, as doorways offering glimpses into different realms.

The concept of world-building lies at the heart of Johnson’s densely layered artworks. She formulates worlds within worlds through self-replicating geometric patterns, temple-like structures, and obscure symbology. The worlds depicted are inhabited by a variety of humanoid figures, alien creatures, worms, prehistoric bugs, and deities entangled into the patterning and internal architecture of this realm.

The exhibition “g/re/p” hints at a world on the brink of collapse under the weight of its own inherent structure. Johnson alludes to numerous literary references that forewarn of god complexes, such as: the novelette Sandkings (1979) by George R. R. Martin, where a man who controls a set of creatures in an aquarium goes from being worshiped by their sand effigies to being punished by them for the cruelty he inflicts; the Greek myths of Icarus, flying too close to the sun; and the biblical story, The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) where the Babylonians presumptuously build a tower from earth to heaven only to be cursed by God. Johnson’s work provides a timely reminder that self-replicating civilizations can flourish when left to their own devices but can also crumble in familiar patterns of exhausted natural resources and rebellion against parasitic elites, gods or their creator.