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Leroy Johnson

Resident Artist - Past

Residence Time: 1995-2001

Viewing and "feeling" the paintings of Horace Pippin, specifically in this case Giving Thanks (BF990), evokes the memories I have of my childhood home. A large kitchen with wooden floors, a huge black cast iron wood-burning stove, on which my mother cooked and heated that heavy, solid iron she used for pressing our clothes. There was a large kitchen table around which the adults in my extended family ate their meals, read the newspapers and discussed current events and politics.

Like Pippin's kitchen, my childhood home was filled with handcrafted items, quilts, blankets, rugs, crocheted and knitted doilies, clothing and the like. Horace Pippin's paintings in the Barnes collection illustrate for me the descriptions and stories told to me by my grandmother, who was born in the 1890s, about her childhood. I see in the composition and palette of Pippin a striving for harmony and security. Building a wall from which he can be an observer and recorder, simultaneously exposing his vulnerability and sensitivity to the viewer's gaze. A desire and need forged in migration, war, and existence in a nation where terrorism still confronted African Americans. 

Leroy Johnson (1937-2022) was a mixed-media artist whose work takes the form of painting, collage, and assemblage sculpture. A native of Philadelphia, his work is poetic and reflective of his many experiences in the inner city. Johnson has exhibited widely, with past solo shows at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, Tirza Yalon Kolton Ceramic Gallery (Tel Aviv), Gloucester County College (Sewell, NJ), and the Camden County Historical Society. He has received grants from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Independence Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Johnson received a Masters of Human Services from Lincoln University (1986-88), and was a 2014 Pew Fellow at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. He has been a participating/resident artist for several community-based arts projects, including for Ile Ife, The Village of Arts and Humanities, Taller Puertoqueno, and The Church of the Advocate, St. Francis Academy, in Baltimore. Most recently, he was selected for the Woodmere 77th Juried Exhibition at the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA, in spring 2018; was included in the two-person exhibition “#WE HAVE NO PRESIDENT” (with Sara McEaney) at Marginal Utility, Philadelphia, PA; and was the inaugural resident artist at Art Barn in Amaranth, Amaranth, PA in 2017.

Leroy Johnson on instagram

watch Leroy Johnson interviewed on Articulate (2017)

Leroy Johnson as artist-in-residence at the Barnes Foundation (2019)