February 2012

Chris Johanson


"I've lived quite a few lifetimes."
Challenging aspects of the life of a professional artist:
Making art
Selling art
Building your own crates

Artist Chris Johanson and I had lunch at Tropisueño on Yerba Buena Lane in San Francisco during the installation of his summer show This, This, This, That (June 3–July 30, 2011) at Altman Siegel Gallery. Over burritos, we discussed the velocity of Johanson's art career. From drawing figures on random public surfaces in San Francisco's Mission district in the early '90s to achieving international fame after participating in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, Johanson's rapid ascension in the art world forced him into the spotlight and precipitated a dramatic two-year hiatus away from it all.

—Natasha Boas


CJ: It was the high demand that I put on myself... pressures. I don't care about that, especially not now. I'm over everything, kind of. You know, we're just into living. It's still how we make our money, whatever, but we're trying to not have it be like it was. It's not a very interesting life, really... Because to just make, when you have to live to make, is a very special place to be. I just thought, I have to make my art myself. I mean, I understood someone like Jeff Koons seemed to be doing a conceptual thing where he had everything fabricated by other people, and I understand that on some level if you don't know how to—

BLVR: Make things yourself? The art of not-making?

CJ: Yeah, if you don't know how to do things, then you get help. But when I do that it's a real collaboration, or I give credit to the person who actually made it. I work with people who are on the same page as I am, anyway. It started as a very existential question, like: what am I doing? And getting on a plane seemed like the most ridiculous thing to do anymore. Traveling to another art-gallery opening or art fair just seemed wrong.

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Natasha Boas is the curator at the MOCFA in San Francisco and contributed "Partial and Incomplete Oral History of the Mission School" to the forthcoming Barry McGee catalogue for the Berkeley Art Museum.

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