Curious and Curiouser at fused space

Artists: Julie Béna, Josh Faught, Courtney Johnson

Exhibition title: Curious and Curiouser

Curated by: Jessica Silverman

Venue: fused space, San Francisco, US

Date: May 25 – August 25, 2017

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and fused space, San Francisco

Fused Space is pleased to present “Curious and Curiouser,” a three-person exhibition featuring oil paintings by Courtney Johnson, glass and steel sculptures by Julie Béna, and tapestries woven from gold lamé and embellished with found materials by Josh Faught. Using everyday life and popular culture as points of departure, these artists fold fact into fiction, constructing imaginary worlds that are simultaneously familiar and alien. Why did Alice in Wonderland cry “Curiouser and Curiouser!”? Because “she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.” Béna, Faught, and Johnson understand the good grammar of their various mediums, but subvert it self-consciously to explore the language, theater and narrative forms of altered realities.

Julie Béna’s work oscillates between performance, installation and theater. Destiny, a sculpture consisting of two glass panels joined together by three brushed steel columns, acts as a translucent room divider. An illuminated cone sits atop the center column, evoking both indoor and outdoor lamps. Seven black letters float randomly, spelling various words such as “edit,” “nest,” “send,” “sin,” “dine,” “deity,” “density,” “yeti” and, of course, the work’s title “destiny.” The effect is one in which the words seem to roam the room, eluding singularity and retaining mystery. Destiny, like Béna’s other sculptures, is reminiscent of a prop; it transforms its environment, placing the viewer on a stage activating a hundred imaginary scenarios.

Fusing personal and collective histories, Josh Faught’s methodically composed fiber wall works investigate language, constructions of identity, and networks of support. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a diptych in which the right panel is a Jacquard-woven image of a brick wall while the left panel combines hand-woven texts appropriated from the 1980’s Gay Areas Directory. The panels are united visually by their strong horizontal linearity and conceptually by their similar relationship to demarcating boundaries and protecting community. Index headings such as adult bookstores, counseling feminist, and opera education become a humorous portrait of a historical community. On the right, at the center of the brick wall, a bit of mortar is missing, exposing a peephole and potential escape into another world.

Courtney Johnson’s paintings investigate the emotional resonances between colors, the illusion of plasticity that creates the fantasy of familiar forms while warping, exaggerating and hyperbolizing them into strangeness. Empirical Somethings, for example, depicts a mountain landscape turned on its side to construct a wobbly staircase to a destination we cannot see. Billowy folds of yellow, turquoise and apricot swell across the canvas, like smoke or marble, while a pearl-white face, nearly hidden or camouflaged, is carved directly into the stone landscape in the foreground. In the grouping of works for “Curious and Curiouser,” Johnson has continued her retreat to alien and dizzying places, drawing inspiration from popular films such as Michael Powell’s psychological drama Black Narcissus (1947), as well as Ursula LeGuin’s science fiction novel, Planet of Exile (1966).

Julie Béna (b.1982, Paris, France) studied at the Villa Arson in Nice and attended the Gerrit Rietveid Academie at Amsterdam. In 2012-13, she was part of le Pavillon, the research laboratory of le Palais de Tokyo. Her recent solo exhibitions include, “L’Eternelle Insatisfaite,” (Syntax, Lisbon, 2016); “Nail Tang,” Galerie Joseph Tang (2015); “How to ask better questions?,” Artopia, (Milan); “Destiny,” Galerie Edouard Manet, (Gennevilliers, France, 2015). She performed at Kadist Foundation, (San Francisco, 2015); Fahrenheit, (Los Angeles, 2014); Palais de Tokyo, (Paris, 2014); and at PERFORMA 13, (New York, 2013).

Josh Faught (b. 1979, St. Louis, MO) received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006. Recent solo museum exhibitions include a site-specific installation at the Neptune Society Columbarium as part of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SECA Art Award Exhibition (2013), the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, (2013), and the Seattle Art Museum in conjunction with his Betty Bowen Award (2009). His work is included in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art as well as the Rubell Family Collection. Faught lives and works in San Francisco, where he is an Associate Professor at the California College of Arts.

Courtney Johnson (b. 1981, Roanoke, VA) received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2011. Recent exhibitions include CTRL + SHIFT (Oakland, CA), Alter Space (San Francisco, CA), 2nd Floor Projects (San Francisco, CA), and Royal Nonesuch Gallery (Oakland, CA). Johnson lives and works in San Francisco, CA.

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Curious and Curiouser, 2017, installation view, fused space, San Francisco

Julie Béna, 33, 2017, Black powder coated steel

Julie Béna, Destiny, 2015, stainless steel, glass, vinyl, 71 5-8 x 82 5-8 inches

Julie Béna, The Eye, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 9 x 5 x 5 inches

Julie Béna, The Fish, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 17 x 28 1-2 x 13 inches

Julie Béna, The Rabit’s Ears, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 13 1-2 x 11 1-2 x 5 inches

Julie Béna, Three Birds and One (checkmark), 2017, Black powder coated steel, 13 1-2 x 11 x 8 1-2 inches

Julie Béna, Triangle, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 47 x 12 1-2 x 1 inches

Julie Béna, Triangle, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 47 x 12 1-2 x 1 inches

Julie Béna, Wet, 2017, Black powder coated steel, 3 1-2 x 18 x 3 1-2 inches

Josh Faught, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 2017, Hand dyed, hand woven hemp, Jacquard woven cotton, and carnival flair on linen, 108 x 70 x 2 inches

Josh Faught, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 2017, Hand dyed, hand woven hemp, Jacquard woven cotton, and carnival flair on linen, 108 x 70 x 2 inches

Josh Faught, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 2017, Hand dyed, hand woven hemp, Jacquard woven cotton, and carnival flair on linen, 108 x 70 x 2 inches

Josh Faught, I Forget Where I am While I am at Where I am Going, 2017, mixed materials, 81 1-2 x 59 1-2 x 4 3-8

Josh Faught, I Forget Where I am While I am at Where I am Going, 2017, mixed materials, 81 1-2 x 59 1-2 x 4 3-8

Josh Faught, Subscriptions, 2017, Hand dyed, hand woven gold lame and hemp, wood burned sign, and a pin on linen, 77x 54 x 2 inches

Josh Faught, Subscriptions, 2017, Hand dyed, hand woven gold lame and hemp, wood burned sign, and a pin on linen, 77x 54 x 2 inches

Courtney Johnson, Empirical Somethings, 2017, Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Courtney Johnson, Equal Weight, 2016, Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

Courtney Johnson, Moon Face, 2017, Oil on canvas, 26 x 68 inches

Courtney Johnson, Wet Dust, 2017, Oil on canvas on panel, 48 x 42 inches

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