Damon Johnson and Jewels in the Gallery After Years In the Wild

Street Artist Damon Johnson says he loves Dick Tracy and has collected stacks of comic books starring the smart and square-jawed, hard-hitting, fast-shooting, detective who pieces together the clues.

When you find one of Damon’s painted cartoon scenes on a wire fence in an abandoned toxic lot your thoughts may turn to femme fatales, villains, and the gritty and dangerous world of the underground. They are real, and then some. Now all we need is a hero.


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Celebrating the opening of his solo show in Chinatown last night, the New Yorker tells us that the themes of anguish and despair recur in his street pieces because he has fought inner demons himself, and naturally there is a little autobiography in every artists work.

Even though his chosen color palette is often bright, he sees the line work and subject matter as more serious and maybe not in parallel to the more cheerful side of Street Art he sees around him today. “I guess they all are happy, and I’m the only one that it isn’t, but I don’t see much happiness in the world today,” he says as he peruses the new pieces at Gallery Sensei. Seen through the visual style and vocabulary of comics, cartoons, and 80’s era graffiti, the complexities of daily urban existence does actually appear somehow simpler and more manageable.


Damon. The Rose in the wild. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

One recurring image is the undulating rose that is illustrated with movement, alive and bright as it is wretched. It was one of the first of his flowers “in the wild” of Gowanus, Brooklyn that we discovered a few years ago in an empty lot, oddly out of place. Raw, possibly poisonous– need we mention thorny – Damon’s rose pushes upward out of the putridity with frank glamour, surrounded by flies and mosquitoes.

“The flowers represent the beauty and fragility of life, I wanted to make something seen as beautiful and turn it into something dangerous, the flowers almost look like weapons with sharp leaves and radiant energy,” he says in the press release for this show.  Given the skater culture and tattoo art influence of most of his work, it is no surprise that this rose is also inked onto a friend’s skin. “Paint the rose as if it is germinating up from the gritty sidewalks of The Bronx,” were the directions he followed.


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Damon will freely tell you that his art is a personal therapy and his work on the street has possibly saved his life in one way or another. Reading into the various domestic and romantic scenes depicted with comic book drama, or even poking around the rose leaves, you may see the artist has found hope amid the wreckage. Possibly “Radiant Jewels” is a physical manifestation of that hope.


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. Monster in the wild. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. A version of the above piece in the wild on the streets of NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Damon. “Radiant Jewels” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


“Radiant Jewels’ Is open for the general public at Gallery Sensei. Click HERE for further information and details.