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Johnny Stein

Johnny Stein uses figurative drawings and paintings to investigate the interactions between surveillance, commodity fetishism, and paranoia. With her charcoal contour drawings she questions the stability, both visual and conceptual, of architecture and the built environment. The organic linework distorts the typically uniform geometric shapes found on building exteriors, questioning both their forms and the order, intimacy, and neutrality that they are meant to represent. Her paintings also investigate mass-produced objects, appropriating images from advertising and graphic arts and placing them in dissonant spatial and historical contexts. These works investigate how the individual is subject to government surveillance, corporate control, and patriarchal pressures. She hopes to reflect this breakdown of autonomy in the face of institutional control with her marker drawings, which combine systematic marks with irregular compositions. Recently she has begun exploring the role text can play in her works, and her most recent work utilizes the language of handmade posters to posit questions about the gaze, personal agency, and capitalism.

Johnny Stein (b. 1996) is originally from the Twin Cities but has spent most of her life in Southern California. She comes from a religious, working-class family spread across the country and channels this confusion between instability and dogma when investigating her work. From an early age she was encouraged towards a musical career and studied orchestral viola performance at Orange County High School for the Arts. She initially studied astrophysics at UCSD, but later felt that her analytical skills were better utilized in studio art, where she can engage more directly in cultural critique.


A House Is Not A Home
Johnny Stein
Charcoal on paper
36” x 34”