Painting en plein air is an old way of breaking out of the so-called predetermined results of painting in a studio, the sort of thing famous old painters did in French gardens while wearing excellent hats. But you can make it whatever you like. Consider it an exercise in presence.
It would be impossible to experience the Johnson’s exhibit Icons of the Desert without being profoundly disconcerted. Though the works on display are extremely graphic (so much that they could be confused with the works of Piet Mondrian or Robert Slutsky from a distance — both of whom lingered on patterns as well), these paintings are not to be confused with typical “fine art.” What is disconcerting about this exhibition is explained by their source: