Luminous, painterly landscapes are rife with the vigor of plein-air’s immediacy in Taos-based artist Johnny DeFeo’s new series. More than previous work, these scenes sans humans each aim to crystallize one singular moment in time and atmosphere, whether the dawn of the world or its sunset. Lush and dexterous brushstrokes nimbly capture movement: purples, peaches, greens, and middle neutrals such as grays mix together in single strokes. The unfettered wonder of the natural world is DeFeo’s subject, from flaming aspen trees, their leaves bathing in sunlight, to the shimmering purple shadows of winter snow or sunlight dappling ground before a blue-green glacier lake. Formal elements create a deliberate stage-like quality that transcends plein-air’s act of documentation to reveal an iridescent truth about the natural world, distilling it to the elemental and essential. Ultimately, DeFeo’s invitation to look is made in the hope that in observing its fugitiveness in paint, we may be primed to notice beauty in the world.
Johnny DeFeo earned his MFA in painting from CU Boulder in 2017. During his graduate studies he exhibited in national juried MFA exhibitions in New York and Chicago, and organized exhibitions and collaborative curatorial projects with artists and curators in Boulder and Denver. In 2018, he co-founded, along with painter Aaron Zulpo, The Guild of Adventure Painters that hosts an annual traveling artist residency called Adventure Painting. DeFeo is also the most recent grant recipient of “Airbnb's OMG! Fund,” where DeFeo will design and craft a one of kind coyote head structure on his land in New Mexico. Along with exhibiting his work both nationally and internationally, DeFeo’s works have been included in recent exhibitions at 1969 Gallery, New York, NY; The Valley, Taos, NM; Visions West Contemporary, Denver, CO; Van Rensburg Gallery, Milton, AUS; KDR305, Miami, FL; and The University of Denver Museum of Art.