Eddie Lee Kendrick, Jesus is Rock, ca. 1992

Institute 193, in conjunction with Good Weather (North Little Rock, AR), is pleased to present Is This My Tongue? an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Layet Johnson (b. 1985) featuring a work by fellow Arkansan Eddie Lee Kendrick (1928–1992).

Is This My Tongue? evokes a drawing by Eddie Lee Kendrick, a custodian at Johnson’s elementary school, that was given to the artist when he was a child. The school’s art teacher recognized Kendrick’s ability and eagerness to draw, and set up a desk near the cafeteria so that he could do so during his downtime. This garnered the attention of many of the students, Layet included, who was fascinated by the work and asked for a drawing of his own. Kendrick gave him one the next day. Kendrick would go on to become a celebrated self-taught artist in the region known for his vivid religious imagery, bulbous and impossible airplanes, and fragmented buildings and churches.

Kendrick’s drawing has been an ongoing and constant inspiration for Layet’s work since then. In Is This My Tongue? Layet is working to refine his drawing practice, coupling magical realist imagery with technically executed brushwork in the style of commercial sign painting. This is, in his words, a way to attain “a linguistic gravity, a stronger semiotic to a practice rooted in drawing.” These drawings embody extreme legibility. They are signs that don’t necessarily signify anything beyond their own being. A drawing of a saxophone proclaims loudly that it is just that. This shift in focus from content to craft allows for a closer reading of Johnson’s mark making and ability to construct succinct, forceful, and emotional images.

Exhibitions at Institute 193 are always free of charge and open to the public.