Johansson Projects presents Thinking, Staring, & Smoking, Robert Pokorny’s new show opening July 31, 2021.
A response…by Garrett M. Brown
“What a long strange trip it’s been…” might be the Grateful Dead refrain you hear as you view Robert Pokorny’s stunning collection of paintings (acrylic on linen), drawings (charcoal and crayons) and a portfolio of unframed drawings. Rather than sitting in a bar, The Grateful Dead would be jamming to us, along with Mr. Pokorny, his wife and their dog, in the confines of a pandemic locked-down brightly lit “night studio”. And, like all of us, coming from this turbulent pandemic-ravaged year, Jerry Garcia, too, would be “Thinking, Staring & Smoking” – the title of Pokorny’s new show at Oakland, California’s Johansson Projects. This is a brilliant homage to Philip Guston, Picasso, mixed in with the likes of The Hairy Who, The Chicago Imagists and R. Crumb with a little bit of David Park. Contemporary and very Pokorny, Thinking, Staring & Smoking – is a grand green-eyed and sausage nosed stare into the revelations and comforts of being stuck together, joint in hand, drink near, and hopefully – luckily for Mr. Pokorny – a beloved wife and dog to share the wearying into the nights. This is not a raging into that good night but rather a very enlightened (see the Guston reds, the Picasso eyes, the masks, the barricades, the curls of smoke, the wrung hands as they tilt perhaps towards Ben Shahn) and humorous (not glib or cartoonish but layered and identifiable) grappling with the terror, panic, and depression that a lot of us weathered these past eighteen months and survived. Now, please, join Lily, Mr. Pokorny’s sweet dachshund – I swear her hot dog shape inspired those noses (!) — and his green-eyed muse, wife Char, and Robert himself, harried, hairy and harbinger of grand things to come – as they rouse us to leave those conundrum doldrums of yore and come back into the light, yes, the very bright lights of that night studio.
2300 Telegraph Ave.
Johansson Projects is a contemporary art gallery that functions as curatorial laboratory, creating exhibitions that pair established and internationally-recognized artists with up-and-coming locals. With no show confined purely to gallery walls it prompts viewers to actively engage with artists who explore the mysteries embedded in modernity often using unorthodox materials and methods. Johansson Projects is a locus for curators, collectors, and artists to connect and engage in dialogue with the larger art community both regionally and nationally.