Leasho Johnson: Only when it's dark enough can you see the stars

Saturday, Sep 19 – Oct 25, 2020

2251 S. Michigan Ave.
Suite 220
Chicago, IL 60616

The title “Only when it's dark enough can you see the stars” is taken from Martin Luther King's last speech (1968). The phrase has a lingering sense of foreboding whilst also an optimistic release. I felt that would resonate with everyone at this present moment. What I hope to create from this dark place is an origin story, the lotus sprouting from the muddy depths of its dark womb to greet the light. This show is a reclamation of one's humanity, light absorbent canvas for stars.


Leasho Johnson (b. 1984) is a visual artist working in paintings, collage, sculpture, street art, and digital medium. He was born in Montego-Bay but raised in Sheffield, a small town on the outskirts of Negril, Jamaica. Johnson uses his experience growing up black, queer, and male to explore concepts around forming identity and the postcolonial condition. Johnson is inspired by Jamaican Dancehall street culture, psychological interiorities, gender politics, Caribbean mythology, and trauma. He uses cartooning as a mode of abstraction to blur the distinction of stereotype and representation, geography and memory, and to reveal or hide western contentions with the black body.

Working in a multiplicity of mediums, Leasho immortalizes the dynamic energy of the Dancehall and engages with black stereotypes and spectrums as expressed in Jamaican/Caribbean cultural practice. His characters often merged specific materials with new narratives around gender and identity whilst utilizing both traditional and contemporary approaches around ancestral and personal stories. His interest sometimes comes from reinterpreting/interrupting the historical imagery of the British Empire with contemporary realities. His work centers the contestations and tensions in western culture around sexuality and seeks to explore contemporary meanings in context to historical truths.

Leasho Johnson is a recipient of the New Artist Society Scholarship from School of Art institute Chicago (SAIC) in 2018. Leasho has shown his work locally in Jamaica at several National Gallery of Jamaica exhibitions, Young Talent, 2010; Jamaica Biennial 2012, 2014, and 2017, We Have Met Before, 2017, and New Local Space (NLS) Belisario and the Soundboy, 2016. Internationally Leasho has exhibited in Resisting Paradise, Puerto Rico, Montreal, 2019, Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora, Bristol, UK, 2016, Jamaican Routes, Oslo, Norway, 2016, Jamaica Jamaica, Philharmonie, Paris and Brazil, 2017 and 2018. Caribbean Queer Visualities, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Ireland, 2016, Of Skin and Sand, National Gallery of Bahamas, 2017, and Third Horizon Film Festival, Miami 2017.