Excerpt from The Journey of Lester Johnson
Uncompromising and independent, Johnson has spent much of his creative life in confident isolation. His African and Native American spiritual heritage has attuned him to creating powerful, grand scale totems that are brilliantly colored and high-spirited...making for a cross-cultural exchange of energy and vision.
His body of work spans several decades, and largely plays homage to the artistry of contemporary jazz musicians...most notably the late Miles Davis. Reflecting the sound of sophisticated jazz, Johnson's work shifts between different tones and designs, using the bold semantics of color to mimic the sound of instruments interacting, locking and unlocking in an exchange of ideas.
Johnson's sculptural, mixed media works are geometrically precise, made with abstract collage elements that knit together past and present cultures with dazzling color. The spiritual energy of his work manifests itself in detailed creations that are as touchingly individual as they are profound.
Lester Johnson, a native Detroiter, received both his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Michigan. Johnson recently retired after thirty-five years as a professor of Fine Arts at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. During his long and productive career as a fine artist, Johnson exhibited his work in the Detroit Institute of Arts (24 shows), Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (3 shows), as well as numerous galleries and museums across the United States and abroad. His work is also extensively represented in both private and public collections.
In September of 2011, Lester Johnson was invited to sign the historic Scarab Club beams. The honor is extended to artists who have made significant and lasting contributions to the arts. Over the years, such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Tyree Guyton, Charles McGee, Diego Rivera, and Norman Rockwell have signed the beams.
In June of 2014, Wayne State University Law School unveiled Lester Johnson's "Garland of Praise Songs for Rosa Parks," to be on permanent display at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. The Detroit Free Press "the work is a tribute to the extraordinary integrity and courage of Parks and Keith and that it represents what Peter Hammer, director of the university’s Keith Center, described as the “convergence between art and Civil Rights.”"
In October of 2014, The Paint Creek Center for the Arts presented the exhibition Evidence: Main gallery featuring the work of Carole Harris and Lester Johnson.
Exhibitions include Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, National Academy of Design, NYC, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Saginaw Art Museum, 20th Century Afro-American Art From The Collection of The Detroit Institute of Arts, and A Cultural Heritage: Selected Works of African American Art from the DIA's Collection, 2001, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Centro de Memoria e Cultura dos Correios, Intercambio, 2001, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, Detroit Pretty City at G.R. N'Namdi Gallery and the University Cultural Association, Klemm Gallery, Reverberations: Contemporary Art by African American Artists in Southeastern Michigan, 2004, Adrian, Buckham Gallery, Pluperfect Plural, 2005, Flint, Scarab Club Spirit Voices 2011, Detroit Historical Museum celebrates: Detroit Artists Market: The First 80 Years, 2012, Dell Pryor Galleries presents: The Masters, U-M Works Gallery Detroit Collective Exhibition 2013, M Stamps School of Art & Design U-M Unintended Consequences Juried Annual Show 2014, Scarab Club 101st Annual Gold Medal Exhibition 2014.
Represented in permanent collections Osaka University of the Arts, Japan, Museu Afro-Brasileiro at Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago - Detroit Branch, U-M Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Ann Arbor, MI., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Martin Luther King Community Hall, Detroit Marriott at Renaissance Center, Goodman, Eden, Millender & Bedrosian. National Bank of Detroit, (New Center), Wayne State University Law School The Damon J. Keith Center For Civil Rights, Detroit, MI.
Principle works include Bishop International Airport Authority, Flint, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Sonnenblick Goldman Corporation, New York NY, Smith, Hinchman & Gryllis, Tougaloo College Art Collection, Mississippi, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, Dickinson Wright, Riverfront Towers Apartments, Detroit Receiving Hospital The Healing Works of Art Collection, City of Hope Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, The Chicago area includes Johnson Publishing Company, Hyatt Corporation, and Masonite Corporation. The Washington, D.C area includes: Smith - Mason Gallery of Art and Parish Gallery - Georgetown, Abstract Expression.