August 12, 2016 - February 21, 2017
Between Terminals C and D
Philadelphia artist Leroy Johnson has been creating art for nearly 60 years. He was 22 years old when he worked with clay for the first time. From that point on, he knew that he was destined to be an artist. Today, using clay, paint, charcoal, photographs, found objects and found materials – nearly anything at hand -- Johnson creates drawings, paintings, collages, and small-scale dioramas that depict Philadelphia’s inner-city landscape.
His vantage point is predominantly from the Market-Frankford El, an elevated regional rail line that runs from West Philadelphia to the Northeast section of the city. Johnson describes it as his “viewing platform.” While riding the El, he observes and photographs the various neighborhoods as they flash by. He focuses on the spaces, architectural shapes, and refers to his palette as inspired by the colors of the city.
And like many inner-city streetscapes there is grit and wear. Johnson says that he is “impressed with make-shift structures and structures shaped by necessity,” structures that have aged yet persevered over time. He sees the life, beauty, and uniqueness within Philadelphia’s ever-changing urban environment. It’s a nostalgic view of a city where he has lived and commuted on the El his entire life.
Johnson’s artwork is an amalgamation of his observations and experiences. His compositions are complex, dense, and detailed with elements of city life. His work “speaks of change, growth, and humankind’s effect on the land,” and his art is an “expression not only of aesthetic values, but social, moral, and spiritual ones as well.”