Tag Archives: Private Art

Tom M. Johnson

I recently received this e-mail from my friend Tom M. Johnson:

If you happen to find yourself in Paris next month I invite you to My Private Art Room in the Marais for a glass of champagne. I am having a solo show where I will be exhibiting work from both “Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb” and “Au Bout de la Ligne (At the End of the Line).” As written on the invitation, it is truly a photographic journey into contemporary suburban life. Besides, Paris is beautiful in October.

All I can say is, “Wow, I wish I could”. Tom is no stranger to Paris, having worked in the city of lights in his earlier incarnation as a model, but he already had a camera in hand and created a terrific project on what he found at the end of the Paris metro lines…all 29 of them. When he returned to the states, and to his hometown of Lakewood, CA, he began to see small town life in a new way, and has captured it brilliantly through portraiture and place. It was recently featured on the NY Times Lens blog.

His exhibit of these two bodies of work opens at My Private Art Room in Paris on October 13th and runs through October 30th.

Au bout de la ligne
It was living in Paris in the eighties that inspired me to become a photographer, however, it wasn’t until I returned twenty years later that I was roused to photograph the city that had taught me so much about life and art. Yet, I wanted to avoid taking just another of the tens of thousands of photographs that had already been taken of Paris. I mulled over this for weeks, trying to conceptualize a new technique or method of approach to the project, until one early morning, after a long dinner party sitting on a train in the direction of La Defense, the northwest terminus of line number 1, the inspiration emerged. I had ridden the metro throughout Paris, yet I had always traveled in the direction of, but never to, Au Bout de la Ligne. I asked myself–What type of Paris exists at the end of each line? Do the lines end in the suburbs (banlieue)? Are the people who live in the banlieue dissimilar to those who live in the center of Paris? I took the metro to all 29 ends of the 14 metro lines in search of provocative moments, visuals, portraits, and answers to my questions.

Bobigny Terminus Picasso

Châtillon Un Couple

Créteil Un Batiment

La Defense Des Voitures et Grand Batiments

Mairie de Lilas Un Joint

Mairie des Lilas Un Mur

Mairied Ivry Des Couleurs et Feuilles

Nation La Manège

Pont de Levallois Un Biere

Porte de la Chapelle Un Champ

Lakewood: A Photographic Journal of a Sacred American Suburb: I search for provocative portraits and relics of Lakewood’s middle class. I come upon kids riding their bikes whose parents are watchful of strangers but not threatened by them, women tending their yards, and men tinkering inside their garages. I interact with these folks, many whom I share similar concerns and interests. They question why I am taking pictures or if I work for a newspaper. When I tell them my pursuit is only artistic many shake their heads. But for every one who is uncomfortable with my presence, there are those who welcome me to photograph them and their front yards.

Images from Lakewood

Tarnished idol. British Museum presents the public and private art of Eric Gill

His eponymous typeface is frequently used to evoke a sense of unadulterated, stiff-upper-lipped Britishness, but Eric Gill is an uncomfortable design hero, writes Alexander Ecob. With a new exhibition, the British Museum hopes to tease our attention away from Gill’s lascivious private life and back to his creative output.

Eric Gill: Public and Private Art (a minefield for Freudian slips) features designs that Gill created in response to public commissions, including sculpture, coins, stamps, seals and medals, alongside his private work as a wood engraver, book illustrator and writer.

Top: Order of Industrial Heroism, 1923: bronze medal showing St Christopher carrying the Christ child. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.


Above: Apocalypse, 1936: proof of a wood-engraved illustration for the Aldine Bible. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

While aiming to show why Gill was, and still remains, such a popular artist, the exhibition does not shy away from discussing his complex (and controversial) political and religious views. The combination of Gill’s private work and his public commissions deals with the entwining complexities of his art, life and ideals, and the contradictions that emerged.


Above: First Designs for Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, 1914: fourteen pen and watercolour drawings for carved panels depicting Christ’s passion, squared for transfer. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

Any knowledge of Gill’s private life makes one uneasy when viewing his work, a feeling he may have promoted with the subversive messages hidden within his public pieces. But whatever subtext may be running through his catalogue, Gill is an important figure in the history of a number of disciplines, a master craftsman whose work reflects so much of early twentieth century British design.

> 7 August 2011
Eric Gill, public and private art
British Museum, Room 69a, free admission

See also:

Jason Smith’s Inspiration piece about Gill’s erotic wood engravings in Eye 59.

Mark Thomson’s article about Gill’s typeface Joanna in Eye 62.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. For an extensive, if incomplete text-only archive of articles (going back to Eye no. 1 in 1990) visit eyemagazine.com. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu.