5+5: Paddy Johnson
Art critic, naked panda
The Art for Everyone 5+5, presented by 20x200 and Jen Bekman Projects, is a series of mini interviews that focus on a variety of tastemakers and trailblazers. From founders, curators and CEOS, to media mavens, editors-in-chief, and prolific authors, each of our subjects have one thing in common — a major appetite for art. In every feature, our interviewees round up their five favorite 20x200 prints, then answer five questions that shed some light on their relationship to art at this moment. Check out the entire series here.
For an art critic, Art F City’s Editorial Director Paddy Johnson is rather nice. Does that mean she loves everything on 20x200? No, but we’re cool with that. As Jen often says: if everybody likes everything we’re releasing, we’re doing something wrong. With Paddy around, she’s never shy about letting you know when she disagrees with you, but she’s equally as emphatic when she’s on your side. Staying true to form, she has put a whole lot of critical thought into describing her top five 20x200 picks. We ❤ her for her boldness, a quality necessary for any critic-in-charge. And, of course, for running the only art publication that would release a calendar full of buff-naked artists and art critics dressed as pandas. She’s one of those pandas.
5 Perfect Picks
According to Vaughan, this print was inspired by oysters; once ubiquitous in NYC, their numbers have dwindled thanks to pollution. There are people currently working to grow new oyster beds in the area. Parallel to this, Vaughan made this series by reviving a common craft; she used woodblock type on a vintage letterpress to produce these prints.
This is a nice chunk of New York history and I love the connections, but I bought this print recently for different reasons. I liked that the pink in the “Salty” print is exactly the color of pink salt. I liked that the typeface and message are bold — it is a flavor and a character trait — but the palette is quiet. And frankly, having seen this print in person, there’s no print on the site that compares to it in terms of quality. You can see the dint from the woodblock type in the paper. You can see the care that went into the piece. And Vaughan actually signed all the physical prints (as opposed to a certificate). If everyone could see these prints in person, they’d be sold out by now.
To the best of my knowledge, this Brandon Herman photograph is the only one on the site that pictures a nude. I love that a photograph like this can have a life on this site. It places 20x200 above other online printers that hew more closely to some corporate idea of what’s appropriate. This piece rightfully infuses sexuality into art.
I gave this to my brother for Christmas one year. I felt weird about it at first and then, I was like, “What the fuck, Paddy? This is a good photograph. He will know that.” And he did.
This is a benefit edition for Art F City, so this makes me biased towards this print in the best possible way. I love it. In 2011, the Bruce High Quality Foundation traveled around the country — in a limo painted to look like a school bus — for their “Teach 4 Amerika” tour. From that experience, the Bruces ended up forming the Bruce High Quality Foundation University. It’s New York’s only free art school and it’s entirely open to the public. This project is amazing, and we couldn’t support it more.
I haven’t seen these prints in person, but the paintings are such beautiful, personal vignettes, each with a kind of warm glow. They are made from his memories as a child growing up in a lower-class Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. I’ve always hoped Robert Garcia would be “discovered” and make it big.
Back in 2008, WFMU published a post about a Noah Kalina 20x200 edition, a photograph of a bed. (That’s the guy who went on to photograph Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding). The post said: “The photo is creepy and depressing, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted it or not, but I bought it because hey, what’s 20 bucks? I can always give it to someone creepy and depressing.” I love that post and it’s stuck with me for years. It’s funny, but more importantly, it gets to what I like about 20x200: you can buy a print and if you don’t like it, IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s 20 bucks. (Now, 24 bucks). And so, I don’t think any selection here would be complete without one of those choices — something you’re not quite sure about, but you figure: WTF. In that vein of thought, my selection is this ridiculous shot of three guys’ pants at a county fair. It’s a little snapshot-like, but there’s action, there’s humor, and if I decide I don’t like it, I’ve got 20 friends who will find it funny too.
5 Q’s + 5 A’s
- Coveted coffee table book?
Am I a heathen if I answer with “my remote control”? I never look at the coffee table books I own.
- What’s your favorite color?
Pink. (Art F City logo and link colors!)
- You’ve got $5M to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
It’s probably worth well more than the 1 million it was originally purchased for, but Dana Schutz’s “People Eaters” at MoMA would be on my magical wish list. It’s just such a weird scenario, so I love it for that alone. But also, Schutz has such an incredible dexterity with paint. She is one of the best painters working today, in my opinion.
- Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
Neither. I like art that’s hung for context. For example, we have two small, nearly identical portraits of a man who looks a bit like a Hardy Boy that we hung over our bed. These are paintings we found in a thrift store that probably wouldn’t be extraordinary if we didn’t hang them for comparison in such an unusual place.
- If you could be reincarnated as an artist, who would you want to be?
Laurie Jo Reynolds. She got a supermax prison shut down through art and urban policy. I’d want to be someone who’s made a difference.
The 411 on Paddy Johnson
Paddy Johnson is the founder of Art F City, an award-winning art blog known for its irreverence and candor. In 2008, Johnson became the first blogger to earn an Arts Writers grant from the Creative Capital Foundation. In 2010 and 2013 Johnson was nominated for best art critic at the Rob Pruitt Art Awards. In addition to her work on the blog, Johnson lectures across the country on art and the art world.