Writing about the Bay Area art scene in 1985, critic Thomas Albright noted that Sargent Johnson was one of the more innovative artists of the late 1930s. Despite all the information available about Johnson, and perhaps because of the experimentation with which he approached his artwork, he remains in many ways an enigma. Out of the little that is known, LeFalle-Collins puts together a picture of an artist who, throughout his career, often sought to understand himself. Early on, Johnson believed that art could not be separated from its social context and followed the lead of social realism, in particular Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whose work encouraged unity of classes and the glorification of folk roots and peasant culture. Through his extensive travels and experimentation, Johnson later became focused on abstract expressionism and explored it through the rest of his life and career.

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