John Yau reviews the exhibition Lester Johnson, Dark Paintings at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York, on view through November 17, 2013.
Yau writes: "Johnson doesn’t demean or pity his subjects and he doesn’t allow us to become sentimental about them. Additionally, he doesn’t let us become voyeurs or let us off the hook, which is why I think these works haven’t become widely known or popular. Instead, he infuses looking with a moral dimension, inviting us to be conscious of what we chose to ignore in everyday life. The Dark Pantings give us much to think about. Embedded within the paint and ink, his men attain a level of dignity and reserve. Their muteness is what I find most disquieting."