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February 29, 2024 By Alex Vlasov
Interior Cloud

John W. Carlson, Interior, Ink on paper, 20 x 30", 2016 Courtesy of SHED Projects

Like it or not, SHED Projects, which opened its doors to the Cleveland art scene less than a year ago, is the most notable art space in town. I find it difficult to keep in mind that a one-night event with a single painting is still possible in the contemporary culture of consumption. Recent world events sting me, and it is hard to believe in the magical power of art. On a Saturday evening, a single painting of John W. Carlson at SHED Projects was like a beautiful cloud that just happened to be there. It appeared for a moment, and then it disappeared. 


For one night, by emptying the entire space, people could enter the void of a single work of Carlson. The painting Interior (2016) interweaves a high-speed gestural figure in red and green meditative structure that appears as a corset on top of the figure. This combination of the elements in the work has a vivid and arresting sensual presence. Direct and descriptive but also with apparent slapdash, every move in the painting is mastered and excites at a glance. Getting to this peak in the work takes decades, and it shows dedication to the painting discipline, which Carlson had plenty of.  

John W. Carlson_SHED Projects_2.jpeg
John W. Carlson, Interior, Ink on paper, 20 x 30", 2016 Courtesy of SHED Projects

Interior points to a space without any boundaries. By being descriptive and expressive at the same time, the artwork provides psychological and ambiguous jangle. With this sound, ruthlessly honest, the painting by Carlson is modern in its frontality, nudging its subject off the wall into the room with the viewer. An artwork, of course, is an accounting of the visible world. But this extraordinary invisibility is present in Carlson’s work. Thus, this painting is more than just an object. With its energy, it expands into another realm. It is in this immaterial void. It radiates an enormous spiritual force that goes beyond physical reality. This fact makes the work powerful since this might be a self-portrait of Carlson, and the artist is no longer with us. 


I left the show by walking outside and looking at clouds in the sky before dusk. The musical performance of Jeff Curtis and Hannah Santisi that also took place at the event was still in my head. I had a crush on that beautiful space and the work of Carlson. Many people did that night. We may be in another era of difficult times, but the magical cloud, as the work of John W. Carlson appears, disappears, and always appears again. In the meaninglessness of our everyday life, this is what we need. Magical clouds that reappear.  

Alex Vlasov

February 2024

John W. Carlson, BODY, Saturday, February 24, 2024

SHED Projects, 3731 Pearl Rd. Cleveland, OH 44109

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