Cletus Johnson

The Arts Club of Chicago

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer . . .”

“Theater . . . an edifice for dramatic performances; a place where events of importance are enacted; a structure for viewing a wonder or a spectacle.” A theater is also a box; it shelters a specific situation and contains an event. Since the early 1950s, boxes in art have been “theaters” for many things: incongruous images, memorabilia collections, erotic or menacing forms, social or political metaphors, intimations of infinity, and everyday junk. Cletus Johnson’s theaters are architectural facades of old-fashioned movie palaces or vaudeville houses. They are made of wood and cardboard, painted a unifying flat gray-brown, set in shallow glass-covered shadowboxes, and hung about eye level. To harden or mellow their facades, the boxes have lights that may be dimmed or brightened and marquee signs that hallow or simply institutionalize such

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