San Francisco

Ralph Johnson

Belmonte Gallery, Sacramento

Johnson was always drawn his subject matter from nature, how­ever much he abstracted it. This show is no exception. Here he makes full reference to the natural shape, in this instance, the moth, which he treats as a baroque shape of great emotional vitality, and also as a symbol of death and resurrection. Whether Johnson, who lives in Davis (where there are plenty of moths for research), is interested in lepidopterous insects as such, or whether he sees in them a vehicle for exploiting color and form, is a moot point. At any rate, he takes his moths through the paces of emotion, from blind, destructive anger to the ecstatic joy of heliotropism, using color to sup­port the action and keeping delineation to a minimum, while playing curve against curve to establish a unified vis­ual rhythm. Johnson knows the value of the curve, but does not abuse its use. The odd note in this show is the in­clusion of a sweetly pink, tightly drawn, tailed moth reminiscent of those painted by lady art club members. Sure­ly he must have been kidding about this one.

––E. M. Polley