“It was just an old passenger train from Dixie to the Midwest, with no amenities of any kind. No lights, no reading, nothing to do but make friends with the sounds of the night train. The wheels on the track made endless patterns, and I was caught up in it almost at once….From this I learned the tools by which apparent chaos could be heard as an unending array of shifting beats and patterns. But on this memorable night, I was innocent of all that.” Philip Glass, Words Without Music: A Memoir
There’s something about the sense of repetition in Juan Logan’s art that reminds me of the composer Philip Glass. Logan’s body of work includes sculpture, assemblage, installation, painting, and mixed media works that contain layered symbols that he activates within each piece to take on new meaning. His symbols occupy a unique place between figuration and abstraction, much in the same way that Glass orchestrates sound that falls somewhere between between opera and the avant garde. Juan Logan’s works offer artistic commentaries on Black presence, identity and power within our uniquely American institutions.
The artist’s most frequently used symbol is a front-facing silhouette of a black head that appears as a series of nodes on a networked map. The map’s topography evokes a sense of interconnectedness that can be viewed, according to the artist, as a counter to loneliness. His “Elegy” series from 2018 plays on connections, while his works created between 2007-2008 utilize his figurative form in abstracted layers to represent labor and power which are quite telling in “The Help” (2008). In this piece the larger heads occupy prominent space in the foreground, while smaller, darker hued shapes are woven into the lattice panels deep in the background of the work. The patchwork effects harken back to southern traditions of quilting, while other symbols of domesticity are peppered throughout the piece.
The North Carolina based artist will be part of the NCMA’s group show called “Front Burner” which opens in March, and I look forward to seeing more of his work in conversation with the other artists in the show.