What Can Smoke Do To Iron?

Collaborations by T. Asbæk and DM Office are pleased to present, What Can Smoke Do To Iron?, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist, Justin John Greene, his first in Denmark.

In this new suite of paintings, Greene continues his ongoing exploration of pictorial space and the social. It is an impulse that has yielded a keen interest in crowds, tracing the many unseen dynamics that define communal gatherings, from the anxious exchanges of nightlife to the socio-political undercurrents that converge in the all-American BBQ. Here, his public scenes emphasize their reach beyond the picture plane, basking in an expansive, carnivalesque mood that mixes the familiar with the fantastical. Drawing from imagery sourced from his personal surroundings (such as snaps from his recent wedding and the 2019 L.A. climate marches) as well as more allegorical imaginings (including references to heavy metal album cover art and fantasy illustration), Greene creates a sense of a world upended, drunk on its many histories while searching for a sense of futurity.

This tension is underscored by Greene’s approach to painting itself, which encompasses a wide array of stylistic approaches. To date, these have included elements parsed from film noir, muralism, postwar advertising and early 20th century American cartooning as well as New Objectivity painting of the 1920s and 1970s underground comix, including the subversive works of R. Crumb. Many of these diverging traditions share an element of social critique enacted through humor and the figure. Alongside this mix are also compositional nods to the Dutch and Flemish renaissance, particularly its interest in everyday peasant life and the inherent conflicts between earthly and heavenly existence. 

The latter proves particularly resonant to our contemporary moment fraught by unease and uncertainty. For Greene, this only underscores painting’s ability to reenvision our world by depicting radical new possibilities – it is an almost ethical position that stresses the medium’s ongoing relevance to our present context. As art historian, T.J. Clark, writes of Bruegel’s “Land of Cockaigne” (1567) in his book, Heaven On Earth: Painting and the Life to Come: “its controlled un-seriousness is what allows it to think so deeply and humanely about what the material world consists of.” 

Justin John Greene was born in 1984 in Los Angeles, CA where he currently lives and works. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL in 2007 and studied art history at Lorenzo de’Medici Institute, Florence, Italy in 2005. Recent solo exhibitions include A Warmer World Carl Kostyál, London, UK (2019); Welcome To Our Mess, Simon Lee, London, UK (2018); Life Hack, Smart Objects, Los Angeles, CA (2018); 94 Rue du Bac, presented by DM Office, Paris, France (2017); O Buona Ventura!, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2017); Secret Slob, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago, IL (2016); Moonlighting, Loudhailer Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2016) and Raw Deal, DIANA, Los Angeles, CA (2015). His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, among them Simon Lee, New York, NY (2017), König Galerie, Berlin, Germany (2016), The Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2016), Gayle and Ed Roski MFA Gallery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2015), and The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI (2015). Institutional group showings include Noise! at Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, NL and On Anxiety at College of DuPage, Addison, IL.