Museum of Wisconsin Art Announces First Solo Exhibition for Madison Artist Romano Johnson 

The Glitterati Features Paintings of Pop Culture Icons, Political Figures, and Spirituality

August 21, 2017
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WEST BEND, Wis. (August 21, 2017):  The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) will showcase more than a dozen large-scale paintings in the first solo museum exhibition for Madison artist Romano Johnson. Opening Saturday, August 26, Johnson’s work will bring color, energy, and glitter to the stark white walls lining MOWA’s State Gallery, illuminating the hallway and creating a visually dynamic space for visitors.

“Part of MOWA’s philosophy and mission is to highlight the talented work of up-and-coming Wisconsin artists.” said MOWA Executive Director and CEO Laurie Winters. “Johnson’s paintings are complex in detail and in subject matter. His work and his story are inspirational.”

Romano Johnson, Gold X Woman, Acrylic on canvas, 2016, Lent by the Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee

Johnson’s compositions feature pop culture icons, political figures, racing cars, motorcycles, and spaceships. With flat forms, vibrating patterns, and explosions of color, Johnson’s paintings can be linked to the venerable American tradition of self-taught art and to the regional lineage of his Madison predecessor, Simon Sparrow. In Johnson’s most recent work, the artist looks to prayer and religion, depicting a series of African American deities and angelic figures. Johnson’s winged entities absorb and distribute the positive forces of the universe and, in the artist’s words, offer viewers opportunities to “recognize the love, peace, and power put on this Earth.”

Johnson’s portraits include political figures and social icons like former U.S. President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. His work also illustrates famous singers such as George Michael, Janet Jackson, and the late Michael Jackson who was a particular favorite of Johnson’s from his television appearances as part of the Jackson 5. Johnson’s diverse subject matter often reflects his deep spirituality through depictions of God, angels, and churches.  As a self-taught artist, Johnson’s creativity is not confined to drawing and painting. He styles his own hair and paints his clothes with bright designs that feature his content in new and meaningful ways.

Johnson was born in Chicago and moved to Madison when he was 13 years old. He initially lived with his sister and then later moved to a shelter with his mother and other siblings. He was encouraged to explore art by his teachers and a case worker who noticed his raw talent. Now, years later, he shows his work nationally and is represented by the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee. Johnson spends much of his time working in his Madison-based studio at Artworking, a non-profit organization that provides career-oriented support for artists with developmental disabilities.

“It’s always a great pleasure to present an artist with their first solo museum exhibition. We’ve showcased inaugural solo shows for many artists including Lois Bielefeld, Daniel Arnold, and now Romano Johnson.” said Winters. “MOWA is a regional destination for serious artists looking to take the next step in their careers.”

The exhibition is on view August 26–November 5, 2017. Johnson will lead a special Studio Saturday on October 7 from 11:00–12:30. Art making will follow until 2:00. The exhibition Opening Party for Gerit Grimm’s Fairytales: In a Time Neither Now now Then, Romano Johnson’s The Glitterati, and Dean Meeker’s Myths and Masquerades will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2017 from 2-5 p.m.

Jessica Wildes, Director of Communications and Marketing
jwildes@wisconsinart.org, 262.247.2266