Ken Johnson grew up in Maine and graduated from Brown University in 1976 with a B.A. in art. He earned a masters degree in studio art with a concentration in painting at the State University of New York at Albany in 1977. For the next five years he worked as a technician in the painting department of an art conservation laboratory operated by the New York State Department of Historic Sites in Waterford, NY. In 1983, he started writing art reviews for the Albany Times Union newspaper and for other local publications in the Albany region where he lived from 1977 to 2001 (in Troy from the early 80s on). In 1987 he began writing articles on contemporary artists for Arts Magazine, and a year later he moved on to Art in America for which he wrote reviews and articles regularly for the next nine years. In 1997 he began writing reviews for The New York Times, and continued to do so until Sept. 2006, when he took a job as the chief art critic for the Boston Globe. After a year in Boston, he returned to New York to write art criticism for the Times. In 2011, his book "Are You Experienced? How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art" was published by Prestel Books.