The particular genius of Daniel Johnston is how close he gets in art and music to what looks and sounds like what might be considered normal aesthetics. Only then he spins it out of control and all over the place. Johnston creates his own world musically, visually, aesthetically and personally.
The first time I listened to one of Daniel’s cassette tapes I was stunned. I had been working in the old Chronicle office on a Saturday when I heard a shuffling at the door. Eventually I opened it. Daniel was there to hand me a cassette of his music. I said, “Thanks.” Then told him what I always said then: I’d give it to a Chronicle music critic. If they liked it, they might review it. I closed the door.
I went back to work. I heard more shuffling at the door. I went back to it. Daniel was still there. He said, “That’s not for review, I’m just giving it to you.” I thanked him. Immediately I put it in a tape player. Not only did I listen to it over and over but also played it for anyone who came in the office.
The first time I saw him live, which was the first time he played live, it was a revelation. In every way Daniel was a force of nature, a wild child of culture.
In her photos of Daniel, Jung Kim captures the musician and artist in so many different ways. In her work he looks as truly unique as his artistry. He comes across as idiosyncratic and eccentric, loving and engaged, amused and bemused. Her portraits capture the world and being of Daniel Johnston with him looking both very human as well as decidedly otherworldly.
Daniel has recorded tape cassettes, albums, produced a comic book, and turned out hundreds if not thousands more drawings. His work has decorated paper, albums, walls and books. During the last five years, Jung has chronicled all this work as well as Daniel’s unique and unusual life with her camera.
I have known Daniel over the last twenty-five years, I have probably seen him in performance as much as anyone. Nobody has consistently and in depth captured his personality, unique style and artistic sensibility as Jung Kim. Her portraits parallel the range and content of his work. This is a very special collection of work - one that is aesthetic, musical and celebratory as well as biographical and cultural. This is art explaining art, an artist explaining an artist.