April 15 – May 31, 2023
Roll Up Project is pleased to present artworks by Johanna Poethig. Working across several media, Poethig explores the intersections of technology, nature, politics, and people. Her paintings, drawings, and sculptures present visualizations of invisible forces, from sound to fungi to growth patterns, blending the seen world with the unseen in what she describes as “speculative storytelling.” Humor also plays an important role in her work, nodding to our shared base nature.
The title ExtraTerraTropoZone refers to the zones we inhabit: the extraterrestrial (the cosmos), terrestrial (Earth), and the troposphere (the atmospheric layer closest to Earth). Rather than linking humans to the animal world, Poethig focuses on our connections to the plant world. For example, text painted into the compositions, such as “cosmopolitan bodies” and “extremophile,” can describe plant or fungi behavior as well as human behavior.
Three paintings and five periscopes fill the window on Harrison Street. Poethig created the periscopes based on a dream her dying father had as he drifted between states of consciousness. Grinning mouths and waggling tongues top the long tubes, emerging from an unseen submarine. In addition to bringing levity to the installation, they also speak to the artist’s interest in the back-and-forth relationship between the conscious and subconscious, and the object and person. As we evolve with technology and scientific advancements, how are we going to stay connected to nature? Perhaps, as depicted in Icosahedrite Meteorite (2019), people might cloak themselves in geological camouflage to take refuge from the warming world. Or perhaps we can take inspiration from the pointy protection of Acacia Thorns (2022). Poethig’s fantastical universe bends out in every direction, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, blending real environmental threats with imagined possibilities for change and regeneration.
In the Third Street windows, five paintings depict old-fashioned microphones and Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower. The forking rays extending from these objects could be interpreted as sound or energy, but their patterning is also similar to mycorrhizal networks, bringing to mind the deeper connections and unseen forces that support and influence our daily lives. Quinacridone Succulent (2022) depicts a woman emerging from the center of a succulent plant, masking her face with large tropical flowers. Poethig uses the algorithmic patterns of nature as a way of linking the body to the larger systems of life on Earth.
Seen together, these recent works reflect Poethig’s environmental and social concerns while still being unfailingly positive and good-humored. She opens the door to worlds we haven’t yet seen, ushering us into our own states of consciousness.
About the Artist
Johanna Poethig is a visual, public, and performance artist. Her practice plays between realism and abstract forms, architectural and intimate scales, historic and present day politics, futurist musings, humor and satire, a feminist point of view, collaborative processes and cultural critique. She was raised in the Philippines and has lived in Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland since coming to the United States. Poethig received her BFA at University of California, Santa Cruz and her MFA at Mills College in Oakland, California. She has received numerous commissions and awards for her public art, and in 2021 she received the California Arts Council Individual Artist Legacy Award. She has curated, produced and participated in performance events that mix feminism, global politics, costume, cabaret, experimental music and video. Poethig is Professor Emerita of the Visual and Public Art (VPA) department at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB).
Learn more about Johanna Poethig’s work here.