Daniel LaRue Johnson

American, b. 1938

Untitled, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

Untitled, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

Untitled, 1971, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches


Born in Los Angeles in 1938, African American painter, sculptor, printmaker Daniel LaRue Johnson studied at Chouinard and in Paris with Giacometti. He is closely associated with Los Angeles’s African American artist movement of the mid-20th century, which developed in response to the country’s social, political, and economic changes.  Johnson's varied body of work includes politically charged collages as well as meticulously rendered color abstractions.

In a review of the historic 2011 show "Now Dig This!", in which Johnson was prominently featured, the critic Christopher Knight noted “Daniel LaRue Johnson merged painting with assemblage, affixing fragments of a broken doll, a hacksaw, a mousetrap and rubber hose onto a large, black field of viscous, tar-like pitch. Made in the aftermath of Bull Connor's notorious Birmingham assault on peaceful civil rights marchers, Johnson injected a jolt of black social consciousness into the exalted status abstract artists then afforded to all-black paintings.”

Johnson first exhibited in community venues, and later in academic settings or a few established Los Angeles galleries. In the fall of 1966, LaRue participated in "The Negro in American Art," an exhibition curated for the inauguration of a new building at UCLA’s Dickson Art Center.  Johnson’s artwork has enjoyed a rich exhibition history, including Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, where his work is in the permanent collection.