Lester Johnson 1919 - 2010 American Abstract Expressionism/ New York School Painters
Generally regarded as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Lester Johnson is credited by art historians with helping to expand the original boundaries of the New York School to include figure painting. His own work incorporates the “action painting” of Jackson Pollock—implying the work’s time-bound process of execution—with what critic Irving Sandler has called a school of “gestural realism,” encompassing the work of Robert Goodnough, Grace Hartigan, Alex Katz, Jan Muller, Philip Pearlstein, Fairfield Porter, and Larry Rivers (with whom Johnson once shared a studio). After his art studies in the mid-1940s in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Chicago, Johnson arrived in 1947 in New York, where he studied with Hans Hofmann and moved in the circle of the Club. He developed a semi-figurative, abstract idiom, widely appreciated for its “confrontational,” or highly paint-charged surface. By 1956 his work was recognizable for its frequent coupling of a human head or figure with landscape or still life, the action-based technique suggesting that the painting, in the artist’s own words, “doesn’t start or stop . . . [but] just moves across—like time.”
Lester Johnson, classed by Irving Sandler along with Fairfield Porter and Larry Rivers as a Gestural Realist, has lived in East Hampton since 1956.