DAYTON – The City Life sculpture collection by artist J. Seward Johnson has returned once again to the Miami Valley and is on display at select locations in downtown Dayton.
In 1968, after an early career as a painter, Johnson turned his talents to sculpture. He is best known for his life-sized sculptures depicting scenes from the everyday life of ordinary people expressed through contemporary life situations.
The sculptures were put on display May 15 and will be in town until August 14. Visitors to downtown Dayton can see Johnson’s work up close during a self-guided outdoor walking exhibit consisting of 16 life-size bronze figures, some painted to great detail.
One of the most popular, and most photographed, of the figures is that of Marilyn Monroe shown with her dress billowing up from an air grate as in the iconic 1965 photo by Elliott Erwitt. Johnson perfectly captures the actress’s likeness and energy in this one-of-a kind work.
While most of the sculptures are new to Dayton, this is the bronze bombshell’s second visit to the Miami Valley. Also returning is the lifelike image of the immortal photo of the sailor’s kiss at the end of World War II.
In addition to movie and pop culture icons, this year’s exhibit features something from the world of classical literature. A 25-foot, abstract sculpture of Shakespeare’s King Lear is on display near courthouse square.
Adults are not the only ones who can have fun with the exhibit. The artists from K12 Gallery for Young People have created 10 stained glass mosaics. Large prints of these pieces are located in street-level windows of downtown buildings.
A brochure is available either online or at various locations downtown to serve as a guide for a self-conducted tour of the various sculptures and the mosaics installed around the downtown Dayton area. More than 250 of Johnson’s life-sized cast bronze figures have been featured in museums around the world including in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Many of Johnson’s works are featured in prominent public art locations such as Rockefeller Center and the new Liberty Plaza in New York City. Several books have been published about the artist including “Celebrating the Familiar,” “Solid Impressions,” and “Beyond the Frame.” A listing of public placements of Johnson’s work can be found on his website at www.sewardjohnson.com.
This is the third and final City Life exhibit to visit Dayton. City Life is a collaborative project of Culture Works, the Downtown Dayton Partnership, Montgomery County, the City of Dayton, and other contributing partners. For more information go online to www.downtowndayton.org or call the Downtown Dayton Partnership at (937) 224-1518.