Scott Johnson: Fissure
October 11, 2019–February 2, 2020
Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe
Scott Johnson’s solo show, Fissure, at the Center for Contemporary Arts’ Tank Garage Gallery, is chock-full of textures, sculptural monoliths, and hauntingly desolate landscapes that perceptually extend into infinity. Johnson displays a mastery of multiple media, including photography, time-based kinetic sculpture, video, as well as mirrored and reflected-light installations. At a glance, the show is visually dazzling and logistically impressive, but Fissure’s flaw isn’t its want of excellence but the lack of deliberate curation and editing.
There is a very good reason why prominent art institutions have curators supported by a staff helping to organize exhibitions. Artists love visual experience, and although artists are good at making art—lots of art—they often aren’t good at stopping themselves from adding too much. Each of Johnson’s artworks has the potential to hold the focus of an entire room. However, putting multiple artworks of such caliber in the same space doesn’t necessarily result in a clearer or more enriching experience.
Space is special. There is a famous quote attributed to Claude Debussy that “music is the space between the notes.” Making critical use of placement and negative space can elevate the potency of an artwork. Without curatorial guardrails, it’s easy for an artist to give into the impulse to push the limits. Johnson’s works demand thoughtful contemplation, yet placing them in such close proximity to one another undermines the subtleties that give the works their power.
Perhaps the considerations of an art world that is increasingly focused on subsuming viewers into immersive experiences and the need to satisfy a selfie-obsessed culture were some of the factors influencing Johnson’s curatorial choices. Fissure is replete with brilliant moments, and in future installations Johnson should trust the strength of his art. Through considerate placement and editing, the whole will benefit.
View related event: southwestcontemporary.com/event/critical-conversations-mapping