GUEST CURATOR - Anna Elise-Johnson                                        

Anna Elise-Johnson

Feb. 22 – 26, 2021

"I'm working with a physical approach to recording the landscape. Instead of taking a photograph to paint as an index of the scene, I soak canvas in plaster, lay the canvas on the ground, and cover it with earth to record the topography of the ground. I've been traveling to isolated places in the desert or mountains to find locations with exposed earth and where I can work in seclusion. That physical experience of folding and carrying the canvas gets recorded in the work as the plaster hardens and dries, and the specific earth from the location makes up the ground of the work. Afterwards when I bring the canvases back to my studio in Los Angeles, each piece then evolves through subsequent processes and layering. Each layer responds to the former until I achieve a balance: between recording the initial topography and obliterating it, between what is controlled and what is uncontrolled, and between memory and forgetting."⁠

Anna Elise Johnson received her MFA from the University of Chicago in 2012 and her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2005. She was born in Starnberg, Germany, and grew up in Colorado Springs. After completing her BFA, Johnson lived in Berlin for years and worked as an artist assistant for Julie Mehretu. After completing her MFA at the University of Chicago, Anna Elise was a fellow at the Core Program in Houston, TX. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions across the United States as well as internationally in Germany, England, Delhi, Italy, and Slovenia. ⁠


Earthworks (Wildrose Road I), 2020

“As guest curator this week, I am going to show my weekly routine of consuming the news. I start weekday mornings by drinking coffee and watching Democracy Now. After about ten years of starting my mornings this way, hearing the host Amy Goodman rattle off the day's headlines makes me feel grounded to start the day and like I'm in touch with the most important news stories of the day. As an independent, audience supported news show, Democracy Now has the ability and the mission to take on stories that you don't see covered by corporately funded news channels. Amy Goodman and co-host Juan González interview experts in their fields like activists, writers, and workers. This morning they interviewed Naomi Klein about the crisis in Texas. They also linked to Naomi Klein's recent article in the New York Times,  and announced her new book How to Change Everything, which sounds like a great book for kids and adults alike.⁠”

Read the articles:
• Fossil Fuel Shock Doctrine
Why Texas Republicans Fear the Green New Deal
How To Change Everything

“I generally listen to The Daily by the New York Times on the way to my studio, and I listen to a lot of podcasts throughout the day as I work. The Daily covers what feels to be the most pressing news story of the day with host Michael Barbaro interviewing NYT reporters. The interviews bring out the crux of issues through interlocution and storytelling. ⁠
Another of my favorite news podcasts, On the Media, takes a meta approach to the news, analysing which stories are told and which are being ignored, how news gets skewed by biases, and monitoring and critiquing the overall news landscape.⁠
Some of my other weekly standbys are The Ezra Klein Show for in depth conversations about the systemic causes of political and social problems, Jacobin Radio for a news with Marxist bona fides, Pod Save America for some quippy but sympathetic insider punditry, and the BBC's Global News Podcast to get the international headlines that many of my other news sources lack.⁠”

Listen to:
The Daily
On The Media
Ezra Klein Show
Jacobin Radio
Pod Save America
BBC Global News Podcast

“Here is a screenshot of the second page on my iPhone home screen where I keep my standby news apps, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and the LA Times. I have my social media apps on the first page, the news-adjacent-app Twitter and the rarely-news-app Instagram (Artist News Network notwithstanding). Instagram can represent an image of the news or signify the news, but you have to have 10,000 followers to link to the news in your (not news) Stories. ⁠
Checking my terms, Merriam-Webster defines "news" as "a report of recent events" or "previously unknown information", so Instagram actually has unending news updates. I had no idea a person I met once at a party five years ago recently got a puppy before seeing that news story on Instagram. Maybe capitalizing news as News could invoke the kind of News that people who go to journalism school and believe in fact checking write. I try to differentiate for myself the feeling of getting these alluring, image based updates to that of reading News written by writers who give time and energy to researching, thinking, and articulating the meaning of the news, even if I access them both in apps on my phone. ⁠”

“One silver lining of events moving to Zoom is that you can join conversations held in different (and multiple) places in the world. This week I joined two zoom conversations from different disciplines processing our current moment: Artforum and Sotheby's held a discussion about the exhibition Grief and Grievance at the New Museum that opened with the question "how do you attend to black death", and psychologists from a group called Das Unbehagen, A Free Association for Psychoanalysis, gathered to discuss climate change denial and ecocide. These conversations are both on YouTube now, but attending live virtually over zoom did make me feel like I was actively participating - even if I was on mute with my camera off. ⁠
At the beginning of the pandemic our vulnerability from the interconnectedness of the world felt like it could also help us realize possibilities for transnational solidarity. Two of the first zoom talks I joined were Arundhati Roy discussing the possibility that the pandemic could be a portal to a different future, and Judith Butler a few months later discussing how the capitalist machine's death drive foreclosed the possibilities of that portal for the sake of "the health of the market." Zoom in itself feels like it holds that tension between the hope spurred by international online discourse and capitalistic, technological zoom doom.”

“With the onslaught of pandemic and political news, I have been reading less art news, but I consistently read the New York Times art section (@nytimes), Artforum (@artforum), and CARLA ( I am also part of a weekly painter's reading group that meets socially distanced in the park to discuss a mix of heavy theory and lighter exhibition reviews and catalog essays. I look at Curate LA ( to see what shows are happening in Los Angeles. Pandemic Time has been productive time in the studio for me and many of my peers, and the exhibitions up this month in LA show how LA artists have been using the time in their studios. This week I saw these exciting shows by LA artists:⁠
Kate Mosher Hall, "Without a body, without Bill", at Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Obscene curated by Shagha Ariannia and Olivia Mole.⁠
Math Bass, "Desert Viens", at Vielmetter
Simphiwe Ndzube, "Like the Snake that Fed the Chameleon", at Nicodim
Stephen Neidich, "Five More Minutes Please", at Wilding Cran Gallery
Johanna Breiding, "Playing Submarine", at Ochi Projects