A Man on Fire - Karl Johnson, Sculptor
After interviewing Mr. Johnson I came away in awe. His large metal sculptures are on display along the Radford Art Walk in Studio City, Ca. [east side of Radford Avenue, just north of Valleyheart Drive]
He talked about his modest beginnings as a quite reserved young man, who was always impatient; got drafted during the Vietman Age and was deployed to the Panama Canal; demobbed and traveled by motorcycle along the Pan American Highway, which he confesses was more of a dirt road than a highway back in the day, and finally mooching off his military buddies he toured the US. He attributes his sometimes garrulous nature to his military service. It brought him out of his shell. So what does a Southern California born and breed boy do with his outgoing personality? Dah - He joins the film business.
He moved on to develop his metal craft foundations as an incidental necessity when he went into body building and launched Paramount gym equipment. As a start-up “everyone did everything” which for Karl included designing and building and servicing metal gym equipment.
He considers himself one of the fortunate few who have a successful and satisfying second act in life - his art.
That’s were I stumbled. How to describe his genre of metal art? Weeks later I am still casting about. I’m compelled to divide the description of work into two categories. The first covers his approach to the message; and next is the perplexing element of his technique, and how that locks the observer to the artist’s message. Looking at the one of his sculptures your first impulse is to be distracted by the individual tiny pieces of metal. Next your brain cycles and processes that all these little pieces of metal are amalgamated to create a familiar image. Then your eyes rove to the anachronistic element.
The anachronistic element is what Karl calls the pay-off, the element that explains the contradictions in his sculptures and which evoke a visceral response. The message imparted by the works with titles like Debt and Baggage are easier to interpret. The Door to Enlightenment, which, where you able to pass through, you’d find yourself imprisoned requires, more of the observer. The sculpture Heroic Mentality, a human head with a watch attached – the message - “Man is the only thing on earth born knowing and understanding that it will die”. You get the point that Karl is a philosopher with the gift to communicate though little pieces of metal welded together.
His art is just remarkable, and a must see.