Rashid Johnson, The Shuttle, 2011. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, How Ya Like Me Now, 2010. Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Love in Outer Space, 2008. Collection of Evan Boris and Monique Meloche, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Self Portrait Laying on Jack Johnson's Grave, 2006. Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Jonathan with Eyes Closed, 1999. Collection of Paul and Dedrea Gray, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Brother with Knowledge of Other Planets, 2007. Collection of Mary Stowell, Winnetka. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Fatherhood as Described by Paul Beatty, 2011. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue
Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks
April 14-August 5, 2012
Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, the first major solo exhibition for Johnson, a preeminent artist in the post-media generation. A former Chicagoan and alumni of the MCA’s UBS 12 x 12 exhibition series, Johnson explores the complexities and contradictions of black identity, rooted in his individual experience, through photographs, sculptures, videos, installations, and paintings. This exhibition is organized by Julie Rodrigues Widholm, MCA Pamela Alper Associate Curator, and includes 13 years of Johnson’s work with an emphasis on major works from the last five years.
Throughout his work, Johnson evokes shared cultural memories by referencing creative and intellectual black figures whose impact has transcended black communities. The exhibition fosters a dialogue by inviting viewers' free associations with familiar figures — such as W.E.B. DuBois, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, and Public Enemy — and everyday objects that appear in the work, including plants, mirrors, rugs, record albums, CB radios, shea butter, and books. The title of the exhibition is based on a 1969 album by the avant-garde group Art Ensemble of Chicago, who performed with a variety of found percussive objects and spanned musical styles to radically redefine the rules of jazz.
The conceptually loaded and visually compelling works also allude to alchemy and transformation through different media that hold their own significance and symbolism. He prefers to create a sense of wonder in the unknown rather than present a concrete understanding of his art. The exhibition also presents examples from ongoing bodies of Johnson's work such as Cosmic Slops, abstract paintings made with melted black soap and wax; The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club, portraits of members of a fictional black bourgeois secret society; recent "shelf sculptures" featuring found objects, such as The Shuttle (2010) and Triple Consciousness (2009); and early photographs of homeless men made using the 19th-century Vandyke brown printing process.
Johnson was born in Chicago in 1977 and currently lives in New York. He has a BFA in photography from Columbia College and attended graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work is in the collections of the MCA Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His work has been featured in major group exhibitions including 30 Americans: The Rubell Collection (2008); Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self at the International Center of Photography (2003); and Freestyle at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001); and in 2011 was featured in the International Pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennale. He is one of the nominees for the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize in 2012.
Catalogue A 96-page, fully illustrated hardcover catalogue provides new scholarship on the social, cultural, and artistic significance of Johnson’s work. It includes an excerpt from Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle, and essays by the exhibition curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm, University of Chicago PhD candidate Ian Bourland, and cultural critic and writer Touré.
Rashid Johnson, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, 2008. Collection of Paul and Dedrea Gray, Chicago.
Rashid Johnson, Katie and Valerie, 2009. Melissa and Russ Wight, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
Rashid Johnson, Sarah with Space Rock, 2009. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
Rashid Johnson, Green Belt, 2009. Collection of Evan Boris and Monique Meloche, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Death by Black Hole 'The Crisis,' 2010. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.