Art is life and life is art for Asbury Park residents Keith Johnson and Celia Morrissette.  They live creatively and beautifully in every sense.

Earlier this month, the couple traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico to support their friend, Daniel Buren’s, installation of a mind-bendingly beautiful 18 piece contemporary art project at the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara, Mexico – a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed in 1829.

Since its premier, “Buren: De un patio a otro trabajos in situ” (one courtyard to another), has received international acclaim from outlets including Vogue Mexico.

I spoke with Johnson, a dealer of original furniture and accessories associated with the Memphis design movement and one of movement’s first and key influencers in the early 1980’s, about the new art installation.

Celia Morrissette and Keith Johnson stand

Celia Morrissette and Keith Johnson stand in the “carousel” – one of the 18 pieces in their friend, artist Daniel Buren’s latest installation at the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara, Mexico.

TBP:  This was much more than a friendly escape from 20 degree weather here.

Johnson:  The purpose of this trip was three-fold:  a well-deserved vacation, to support our friend Daniel Buren who I have known since I was an art student, and to enjoy the grand opening of the exhibit which included guests like the President of Mexico.

We went for moral support however the project was so complex and bewildering to some that Celia and I gladly stepped in as installers or “straw bosses.”  Imagine my beautiful wife Celia on a huge industrial ladder, applying Buren’s trademark vertical stripes in the Grand Cathedral.  She is an undaunted trooper; nothing stops her.  Oh, she did have me holding the ladder!  [more below]

One of the 18 pieces in the art installation "Buren: De un patio a otro trabajos in situ" [until June 2014].  Locals visited the artist, their friend, Daniel Buren at the site at the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara, Mexico. PHOTO BY JORGE SOLTERO (@JorgeSoltero).

“Buren: De un patio a otro trabajos in situ” [until June 2014] at the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara, Mexico. PHOTO BY JORGE SOLTERO (@JorgeSoltero).

TBP:  Celia just gets more and more fabulous.  For someone who is not familiar with your friend, what type of creative brain is Daniel Buren?

Johnson:  He is considered in the rankings of the art world an über-artist – so influential that he is really beyond a superstar like Damian Hirst.  His peers at that level would only be Richard Serra, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons.

He is known best for using regular, contrasting colored stripes to integrate visual surface and architectural space.  Most usually and notably he does this on historical, landmark architecture like this installation at the UNESCO heritage site or others at the Palais Royal in Paris, the public gardens across the street from the Opera House in Lyon (France) and at the Louvre museum.  He is the winner of the Golden Lion Award from the Venice Biennial and the Premier Imperial of Japan which is considered the “Nobel Prize” of the art world.

TBP:  The geometric, primary colored pieces, as well as the scale, are spectacular.

Johnson:  Celia and I loved the carousel in the largest courtyard that perfectly mimicked the shape and scale of the huge domed roof of the cathedral.  It was an absolute fantasy piece come to life complete with expanded doors to enter and multi-colored glass panes which cast delirious kaleidoscopic hues everywhere.  Pure genius.

Contemporary art like this imbued on a classical structure integrates beautifully when executed by a grand master like Buren.  The methodology for work like this is the same as other projects – employing balance, form, scale and composition.  Good design is always good design.

TBP:  Your life is filled with curated beauty.  Everything around you is just beautiful and interesting.  What makes something beautiful to you?

Johnson:  Being in love with “beauty” is an addiction or hunger that never abates.  Beauty is a sense of honesty and a desire to elevate itself visually above the norm.  This is why I still possess such a crush on my beautiful wife Celia these 17 years later.

For more about the artist or his exhibition, “Buren: De un patio a otro trabajos in situ,” click here.  For The Coaster and TheBPlot’s 2011 interview with Johnson about the Memphis design movement, click here