Jess Johnson: Honk if you don't exist

Roswell Artist-in-Residence Exhibition 

November 18 – December 31, 2023

Artist Talk and Reception: 

Friday, November 17, 5:30-7 p.m.

Jess Johnson is a New Zealand-born artist whose artwork reflects ideologies of technology and flesh, both ancient and futuristic. Inspired by her interests in science fiction, comics, technology, architecture, and theories of consciousness, the concept of world-building lies at the heart of Johnson’s densely layered and visually-rich artworks. Extending into installation, video, VR, and textiles, her complex fictional world is initially developed by hand through her drawings depicting self-replicating geometry, obscure symbology, and temple-like structures inhabited by a variety of humanoid figures and alien deities.

Honk if you don’t exist includes Johnson’s drawings as well as collaborative works with others in the mediums of textile and video. The exhibition title relates to the artist’s internal experiences on long road trips around New Mexico, combined with her prior interests in the paranormal. “I’ve always been very suspicious of reality,” Johnson says. “When I was little I spent long games trying to catch the world around me in a trick. I had this idea that there was more to the world than what was being revealed to me and if only I discovered the right access points a door would open in the air and I would enter the world of the ‘really real.’ The place beyond reality, where reality is made. There was the ‘real’ which was something we were taught to believe; then there’s the ‘really real,’ which was the truth below. I think my brain just got stuck on this notion whereas for most people reality gets firmer underfoot as you grow up.”

Accompanying her exhibition, the Goddard Planetarium is hosting special screenings of XYZZY, a 40-minute, full-dome cinematic experience created by Johnson and her longtime collaborator Simon Ward. XYZZY will lead you on a psychedelic, musical odyssey through the world the artists have been evolving over a decade-long collaborative practice. Video director Simon Ward created XYZZY by translating Johnson’s hand-drawn compositions into animated webs of flesh mandalas, undulating space worms, and hallucinogenic patterns. The dynamic visual atmosphere is charged with 90s-inspired electronic synthesizer tracks from musicians Andrew Clarke, Luke Rowell, Stef Animal, and Lachlan Anderson.

Jess Johnson’s work has been exhibited worldwide. She is represented by Jack Hanley Gallery, New York; Darren Knight Gallery, Australia; Ivan Anthony Gallery, New Zealand; and Nanzuka Gallery, Tokyo.

Exhibition and related programs presented in partnership with the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Foundation.

2021_Ditto Blank_quilt_install_72ppi

Top: Jess Johnson, Alwasy, 2022, Pen, Fibre Tipped Markers, Acrylic Paint, Gouache on Paper, Courtesy of the Artist.

Bottom: Jess Johnson and Cynthia Johnson, Ditto Blank, 2022, Quilt Made from Digital Print on Cotton with Pieced Fabric Border, Assorted Textiles, Thread, Resin Claws, Wooden Batten, Courtesy of the Artist.