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Johansson Projects is a Haven for Contemporary Art

By Marina I. Jokic

The gallery has been open for over 10 years, nestled among similar artistic establishments in Oakland, and has hosted over 65 exhibits since its founding. A small, hip venue, Johansson Projects' avant-garde works have created a reliable track record of ingeniously devised, contemporary art exhibits that never cease to surprise the audience. As a way to show its solidarity with the larger artistic community, the gallery participates in Oakland Art Murmur, an art walk on the first Friday of each month promoting the importance of public involvement in the arts.

"I opened here in 2007 because I was attracted to the free-spirited artists here [who], without the constraints of commercial pressure and high rent, tended to be more interested in experimental collaborations than conventional art career paths," owner Kimberly Johansson said.

She has been fortunate enough to obviate the burdens that larger and more commercialized galleries face, and in that way, has been able to host more unconventional artists. While many galleries aim to attract marketable talent at the expense of a long-term vision, Johansson has built a distinctive and unified aesthetic that remains open to contemporary art movements, both local and national.

Artwork & Photo by Sofie Ramos

Oakland has become a mecca for up-and-coming artists. Johansson Projects has made hay of the influx of new talent, and established itself as one of the most consistently lauded independent galleries in the Bay Area.

"The area has grown up from the soil of its contributors," Johansson said. "Over the years, a community of local and transient artists have emerged in Oakland and produced a diverse body of work that is deserving of the recent national consideration."

Johansson is adept at using the space's unique architecture in new and interesting ways and creating a complement of works. Meticulously arranging each exhibit, Johansson aims to create theme-based shows that have a logical flow and give the viewer aesthetic satisfaction. The gallery has become a gateway to the neighborhood's artistic spaces, drawing a diverse crowd of visitors as well as garnering media attention. Bringing a fresh perspective to traditional art mediums, the gallery features art work that is experimental yet not inaccessible and overly intellectualized.

Artwork by Misako Inaoka; Photo courtesy of New York Times

Artistic mediums at Johansson Projects range from delicate works on paper to kinetic, mechanical, and electronic art. Johansson is particularly drawn to a recent exhibit, the sculptures and paintings of Reed and Ottinger.

"Through loud, chromatic palettes and vivid textures, both Reed and Ottinger create work that is tactile, vocal, and slyly humorous," she said. "The viewer is invariably drawn into the rabble-rousing, tangled up into its web of discourse; urged to join in or play along."

The teetering figures are dynamic and fragile at the same time, made out of foam, acrylic, wood, and metal wire.

"Reed's anthropomorphic sculpture arouse our emotions, and function as figurative firebrands, instigators of trouble and fun," she said.

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