Ezra Johnson, with a background in painting, has been exploring the boundaries of static imagery in his new animated narratives. Using a series of detailed canvases as backdrops, Johnson manipulates the foreground elements adding layers of paint and collage to create shifting scenes and rising action. Accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack, the results are a unique blend of stillness and velocity.
What Visions Burn (2006), the first of two works shown, imagines an elaborate art heist and the dramatic aftermath of the crime. In a story that addresses the corruption of New York City, Johnson uses jump cuts, close ups and grainy textures to suggest an air of surveillance and suspense. The narrative web connecting the series of paintings is punctuated by a soundtrack of realistic street noise, chatter and music.
The more atmospheric What Birds Remember if They Do Remember (2006) is a story guided by literal and metaphoric flight patterns. Following the paths of birds, the video moves from deceptively natural settings to voyeuristic views of urban interiors in dreamlike stretches of time. Beginning with a quiet houseboat in the East River, motorcades lead to a superdome of worshippers, on through quieter landscapes of a familial hunting expedition and finally to places unknown. The animated format provides a playful context for the dark and sinister subjects. Johnson collaborated with Duncan Adams and Matt Terrell, who composed the original music and sound complementing the loosely woven narrative of the video.