Medford Johnston: Counterpoise
February 8–June 8, 2014
Acrylic, modeling paste, and pencil on canvas
Overall: 60 x 45in. (152.4 x 114.3cm), Framed/Mounted: 63 3/4 x 48 x 2 3/8in. (161.9 x 121.9 x 6cm)
Anonymous gift through the 20th Century Art Acquisition Fund
© Medford Johnston
Counterpoise brings together two interrelated bodies of work produced by Atlanta-based artist Medford Johnston between 1987 and 1990 upon returning from East Africa, where he spent time following an academic sabbatical.
Johnston’s paintings offer a visual interplay between line, form and color that is specific to his experiences of the Samburu, Kikuyu and Masai cultures during travels throughout Tanzania and Kenya. They feature variations on a theme inspired by Masai walking staffs, which are used not only for balance while herding cattle, but also as a protective weapon against animals that threaten both the herdsmen and their charges. The jagged contour of the staff in juxtaposition with the graceful poise of its owner, seen in silhouette against the horizon of East African plains, inspired Johnston’s years-long study of balance, counterbalance and dissonance in the interdependent relationship between people and nature.