Also Known as: Lester F. Johnson
Minneapolis, Minnesota 1919
Westhampton, New York 2010
- New York, New York
- Milford, Connecticut
- East Hampton, New York
- Greenwich, Connecticut
Lester Johnson, Two Self Portraits, 1965, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum,Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection 1980.137.67.
Lester Johnson was hardly a typical abstract expressionist. A prominent artist in New York, Johnson was very much a part of the 8th Street artists' club as well as the 10th Street artists' co-op movement. He was among the first to seek out loft spaces on the Lower East Side after he arrived in New York in 1947. Johnson first met Martha Jackson
" at the opening of her first gallery in New York. She was showing de Kooning's Women paintings which she had just purchased. At that time I painted in my apartment on 95th Street and 3rd Avenue. Martha came, immediately liked my work which she had already seen at the Korman Gallery and offered to buy some early Chicago gouaches. However, she did not offer me a show, which is what I wanted, and didn't want to sell the Chicago gouaches, so nothing came of the visit. About five years later I received a letter from her asking to talk to me. Soon after she offered me a contract.
"A nice part of being in her gallery was feeling that she was committed to my work and supported it wholeheartedly at a time when people were not ready for figurative expressionism."
Johnson was an abstract painter until 1954 when he started to capture the essence of the city. He painted the quick tempo of those who lived out impersonal careers amid skyscrapers and never looked up, the slouched gait of the inured urbanite, and aggressively beautiful women (those the tabloids would call "statuesque"). These characteristics abound in both the subject matter and the formal properties of his work.
Harry Rand The Martha Jackson Memorial Collection (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1985)