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Seward Johnson’s 'Erotica Tropicallis' is inspired by Henri Rousseau’s 'The Dream', painted in 1910. In the painting, a young woman reclines on a sofa and contemplates the surrounding verdant jungle, apparently oblivious to the danger posed by the wild creatures in her midst. According to Rousseau, “The woman, who has fallen asleep on the couch, is dreaming that she has been transported to this forest and is listening to the sounds of the flute player.”
Johnson recreates rhythmic patterns and overlays of shapes punctuated by varying textures and contours to preserve the condensed spatial composition that characterized Rousseau’s original image. For the most part, Johnson’s realistic figures and Impressionist pieces rely upon the immediate natural environment to serve as a backdrop for the sculpture and thus share a common ground with the viewer. Conversely, the female subject of 'Erotica Tropicallis' exists within a compressed, exotic dreamscape that bears a resemblance to a sculptural bas-relief, engaging visitors to participate as a voyeur in the surreal scene.