July 26, 2007

Butt Johnson

Butt Johnson is the name assumed by (or, perhaps—he doesn’t say—given to) a Brooklyn-based artist whose published œuvre to date comprises twenty-five remarkably intricate drawings done in ballpoint pen, and a single limited-edition print. The minute attention to detail in these works reminds me, if only tangentially, of the similarly meticulous drawings of Laurie Lipton and Paul Noble. The details below link to images copied from the artist’s website: these are all Copyright © Butt Johnson, and have been reproduced here with permission. The text below is quoted from an article about Johnson by Conor Risch.

1. Detail from 'O Quantum in Rebus Inane!,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.


2. Detail from 'Vene Vidi Vici,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.
Although he studied painting in college, post-graduation Johnson turned to ballpoint pen drawings. ‘Everything changed in ’01,’ he says, ‘I discovered these Victorian securities engravings that were done literally as railroad bonds in the turn of the century, and I started getting really interested in this tradition of engraving.’ […] The bond engravings, with their elaborate borders, backgrounds and ornamentation, were created not only to look impressive but also to prevent counterfeiting, which meant incredible levels of detail. […] According to Johnson, the intense patterns on the bond engravings were created using geometric lathe-work. Johnson managed to create his own patterns with spirographs and rulers, and then folded pop culture imagery into his borders and backgrounds.
3. Detail from 'Another Study for Scientific Creationism (HIV),' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.


4. Detail from 'Unrequited Love,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.
In addition to the Victorian engravings that first caught Johnson’s eye, he cites as influences Italian architect, archeologist and engraver Giovanni Piranesi, Venitian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo, and the work of German anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus […]. ‘I wish I could say that I studied [these master techniques] formally,’ says Johnson, but it’s just me crapping around the internet mostly, looking up stuff. And trolling around in the Strand looking at all the books.’ […] Johnson says his drawings take him roughly three months to complete, a schedule that makes it difficult to gather enough material for a gallery show.
5. Detail from 'Qualb Tenah Maksour' (Another Broken Heart), a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.


6. Detail from 'Laa tishrab min beer o tirmy feeh Hajar' (Don't drink from a well and throw a stone into it), a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.
I suggest to him that our culture might appear unimpressive next to those we’ve grown up studying, but he disagrees. ‘I’m sure they’ll find our little plastic G.I. Joes in two hundred thousand years—and they’re going to last that long—and I’m sure they’re going to be in a lot better shape than the rocks we find from other cultures’ he says as he scrolls through images on his computer. ‘Considering the technology that we have, will they be able to access this stuff? Who knows. But if you’re just talking about remnants they can go to a landfill and find the most incredible things.’
Posted by misteraitch at July 26, 2007 02:46 PM

hey. just found you. if i drank from the source
it has finally started to quench my thirst,
drop by drop.
I always have believed in your distant meditations...they actually saved my life one autumn day.
continual thanks.

Posted by: vera on October 9, 2007 08:42 AM
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