The highway system, and its interlocking freeways and
interstates, is Johnna Arnold’s artistic territory.
She makes unexpectedly appealing images out of places
where we unavoidably spend much of our lives – especially
in California – but never really comprehend. The
painted lanes on the freeway, like real world manifestations
of road maps, are symbolic elements that are rarely seen
for what they are – infrastructural land use and
commonly shared social space. We zoom past at inhuman
speeds, only slowing down when gridlock traf¸c forces
us to. It is then that it’s possible to notice
the amazing range of people who share the roads from
the safety bubble of their vehicles, as well as the curious
qualities of expressway architecture – the textured
walls and exhaust addled landscaping.
In her photographs and video installation, Arnold focuses
in on details of perspective and movement. Her static
images are formalized views from the car window and they
point to an amazing range within the perceived sameness
of the road. In her large-scale wall drawing, Arnold
chronicles her daily travels, constructing a map that
evolves over time. Her dynamic video piece offers a view
from above Interstate 580, recreating the abstraction
generated by vehicles and their routes, and the way they
pass too quickly, in both directions. They’re blurs
of color, sometimes recognizable, but more often not.
In this form, they become a mesmerizing vision of cultural
alienation and modern life, and one that taps into an
almost universal experience with genuine awe.