Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jack Johnson

Perpendicular: Wake Up Call of the Invisible People
Mixed Media

Woodward – Mack – M. L. King

An exampled American intersection, an example because it typifies all that is right and all that is wrong with America and all that is right and all that is wrong with the world.

I wish to indulge your intellect for a few brief moments. Out of the window of this beautiful million dollar structure another world exists. A world that we all know exists but really never touches but a few of us.

To many, it would seem ironic to give this assignment to a man of my history. Yes, I am an artist and this is technically an art show but to look at me and to look at my work, one would immediately rush to judgment and think “hell he is one of them, one of the invisible people” who slipped in and now wants to make us all feel guilty for everything that is wrong with America. You would be right on one account; I am the invisible man, an African American male in an urban environment, self taught, uneducated abstract artist.

You only need walk up three flights of stairs for an aerial view and from that vantage point depending on how you viewed the “lay of the land” an intersection is a cross or it’s an “X”. Webster defines it as two right angles that bisect. The human condition is marked here; a start, a finish, a known point. Some here take life for granted. Some seek to improve their condition. Some have mentally given up and lost their awareness.

I was motivated to do this project because one Sunday morning in July, 10 years ago (30 years after the riots of 1967) I was driving down Myrtle (M. L. King Boulevard) and there was a large house with a family on the front porch barbecuing and drinking beer. Sunday morning 0800, this is not typical, it was rare yet it was funny and sad. I was building a new computer so I wanted to get out to CompUSA in Madison Heights early. It opened at 0930, I got there around 0915 and there was a long, long line. I don’t remember but some piece of technology was debuting on the market that day. It was sad because the people of this neighborhood outside of these doors are my people and I love them but they are your people too. They are invisible because of poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime, but worst of all an overwhelming sense of hopelessness (showstopper). They don’t vote and the police often don’t come when they call. This does not apply to everybody you pass on the streets but the numbers are so stifling, the point is, this is a wake up. Chances are we can’t save most of them but we save the ones we can – the babies. We save humanity by educating the children. The school system has failed. The blame is abundant – enough to go around. The teachers, administration, the parents, the politicians, even the children themselves are to blame. We can point or we can change. We don’t teach reality, we don’t teach time management, we don’t teach how to study, what to study and there is no follow up or accountability. As a neighborhood, city, region we are only as strong as the weakest link. We begin to do the impossible with every single effort and we realize that the invisible are not so hard to recognize because they are us, all of us. Wake up world!

Jack Johnson, born February 14, 1955, in Vallscreek, WV, in a one room shack in a coal mining town (parish, village or hollow), moved to Detroit and family split up in 1965. I was a paperboy during the riots delivering Sunday morning papers. 12th street was most of my route but I’d never seen a “blind pig” in my life, not until July 1967. Got my education, joined the military – stayed for 25 years and I’ve been painting every since. Started out as therapy then became a hobby, evolved into a “whole nother thang”. Now my work is me, an essential sense. My work changes a great deal over time but is probably best described as abstract expressionism. I am an abstract painter.

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