It's fair to assume that the last time you were in physics class, you didn't half-expect those jumbled formulas and endless symbols to congeal into something visibly beautiful, did you? If you did, you're a clairvoyant. If not, the work of New York-based artist Kysa Johnson is bound to change (and bend) your mind.
Johnson has long harbored a profound interest in quantum mechanics and particle theory. She may not be another Professor Brian Cox, but that, in itself, is a very good thing. Stringing together the intricate equations for subatomic particle decay (the kind of event that is happening every nanosecond around us) in various orientations around a two-dimensional surface allows Johnson to meld theory with practice. The art of creating and sustaining imaginary environments that resonate in the real world is the endgame for the visual artist: Johnson's work ensures that the imaginary is, in fact, not fleeting or absurd in the slightest. The title of her last solo exhibition with the Halsey McKay Gallery in East Hampton (immediately, not your first destination to see such a cerebral presentation, but nevertheless...) is as contextually loaded as her imagery. Blow Up 250 Be It Ever So Humble - Subatomic Decay Patterns After Wyandanch, Payne & Rennert (insert breath here) sees Johnson create delicate chalk drawings over black painted vinyl sheets hung throughout the gallery space. From a distance, a gentle pastoral scene with a grand New England mansions surrounds the viewer. Up close, familiar and unfamiliar mathematical symbols are orchestrated to compose the final image. These patterns are at the core of Johnson's practice, illuminating the hidden paths towards understanding the neverending sources of potential and kinetic energy that are physically impossible to perceive. Johnson's goal isn't to find out the answers to the universe, instead, she provides a way to see those questions with the naked eye.
Kysa Johnson was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1974. She received her BFA in Painting from the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland in 1997. Solo exhibitions of her work have been staged at venues in a East Hampton, Washington, D.C., London and New York. She was the recipient of the Emmy Sachs Prize in 1997, a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in 2003, and the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant in 2010. In 2000, Johnson was commissioned in for an installation at the Concourse Level of the Empire State Building. Her work is held in the collections of the Artist Pension Trust, Fidelity Investments, Microsoft, The Peterson Collection and the Lodeveans Collection. Her work has been featured in publications including ArtForum, Artinfo, the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, New American Paintings, Time Out Chicago and the Irish Arts Review. Kysa lives and works in Brooklyn.