Take Los Angeles with Pills. In this we see palm trees, a boxy, low-slung house, pairs of people sitting around tables, two individuals shopping in a grocery store, a person studying, and a homeless person pushing a cart. It shows a range of social and economic activities, some of which imply or call for a critical reaction. An example would be his repeated use of shopping carts. Are they vehicles for the homeless to transport their possessions? Or are they simply functional objects for moving consumer goods from one place to another, from display shelves to checkout counters to automobiles? Johanson’s uniform depiction of them in terms of scale suggests that both uses are part and parcel of our country’s economic system. The same forces engender both uses.
It recalls Rauschenberg's famous dictum about “operating in the gap between art and life,” as well as a corollary notion: that art asserts its autonomy while remaining linked to world from which it springs.
Johanson’s work seems to do both. His work is complex and provisional, filled with disparate scenes of people, buildings and city streets merging and overlapping in dozens of possible scenarios. Far from feeling unified or inevitable as a composition, Los Angeles with Pills feels almost modular in biological sense, as if any piece of it could break off and regenerate, like the limbs of a plant.