Johnny Romeo 1st February 2014

Johnny Romeo
Victory Or Death

John Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary once noted: ‘There are many pictures of Lincoln, but there is no portrait of him.’ Nicolay’s statement addresses the attempt of artists and photographers to capture the essence of Abraham Lincoln.

In his latest thrilling portrait, as part of the A PORTRAIT APART DEUX group show, Johnny Romeo seeks to distil and reinterpret the essence of Abraham Lincoln – as man, as leader, as true American icon. VICTORY OR DEATH is a towering testament to Lincoln, vividly wrought in Johnny Romeo’s bombastic Neo-Expressionist Pop style.

The piece masterfully examines the dualities of identity, creating a complex and nuanced insight in to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Visually, Romeo’s portrait masterfully balances the extremes of celebration of solemnity, of elation and resignation.

Lincoln’s silhouette is rendered in sumptuous, dark lines, his gaze austere and enduring. The shroud of bluish grey enshrouding Lincoln’s right side pushes the picture plane, and lends the portrait a considerable sense of melancholic gravitas. In contrast, the gloriously jubilant pastel hues of Lincoln’s face and the nebulous pastures of green and yellow of the background imbue the portrait with an air of playful optimism and triumph. This harmonisation of disparate moods encapsulates Lincoln’s own fractured identity; a paean to the president who led his nation to victory in the Civil War, and yet declared himself ‘the most miserable man living’ and met a violent end at the hand of John Wilkes Booth.

With his signature panache for cultural witticisms, VICTORY OR DEATH is rife with eclectic references to history and rock’n’roll. The stencilled ‘16’ and ‘Kentucky Rain’ pay homage to Lincoln’s Southern upbringing and his place as the 16th US President. The scrawl of the title ‘Victory or Death’ is an allusion to a tattoo of Guns’N’Roses rocker Axl Rose, but acts as a powerful epithet to one of the most influential figures in history.

Johnny Romeo’s VICTORY OR DEATH is a bold and impassioned portrait of Abraham Lincoln. In seeking to capture the spirit of Lincoln, Romeo speaks to our own experiences of mortality and legacy.

Johnny Romeo’s VICTORY OR DEATH will be part of the A PORTRAIT APART DEUX Group Show @ Porter Contemporary in Chelsea, New York, USA.
Opening Night: Thursday February 27th @ 6:30 – 8:30pm.

Any enquires concerning Johnny Romeo’s VICTORY OR DEATH can be made directly through Porter Contemporary (jessica@portercontemporary.com / info@portercontemporary.com) or by calling the gallery on +1 212 696 7432.


February 16, 2014