Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks

Images

Rashid Johnson, Self Portrait as the Professor of Astronomy, Miscegenation and Critical Theory at the New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club Center for Graduate Studies, 2008. Lambda print; 51 ½ x 73 in. (130.8 × 185.4 cm). Collection of Marilyn and Larry Fields, Chicago. Photo: Luca Carrà, Milan, Italy, courtesy of annarumma404 gallery, Naples, Italy.
Rashid Johnson, Triple Consciousness, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl in album cover, shea butter, plant, and brass; 48 × 96 × 8 in. (121.9 × 243.8 × 20.3 cm). Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Rashid Johnson, How Ya Like Me Now, 2010. Persian rug, gold embroidery, and shea butter; 7 × 102 ½ x 143 ½ in. (18 × 280.5 × 364.5 cm). Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett), 2008. Lambda print; 48 ½ x 73 in. (123.2 × 185.4 cm). Collection of Elliot and Kimberly Perry, Memphis, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Rashid Johnson, The Shuttle, 2011. Mirrored tile, black soap, wax, books, shea butter, oyster shells, plant, and cb radio; 96 ½ x 125 × 11 ¾ in. (245.1 × 317.5 × 29.8 cm). Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Photo: Adam Reich, courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Rashid Johnson, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, 2008. Blackened gunmetal steel; 136 ½ x 126 × 24 in. (346.7 × 320 × 61 cm). Collection of Paul and Dedrea Gray, Chicago.
Rashid Johnson, Black Yoga, 2010. Persian rug, spray enamel, and video on monitor; 110 3/16 × 138 13/16 × 19 5/8 in. (280 × 352.5 × 50 cm). Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Sarah with Space Rock, 2009. Archival pigment print; 40 7/8 × 32 5/8 in. (103.8 × 82.9 cm). Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Rashid Johnson, Death by Black Hole “The Crisis”, 2010. Steel, black soap, wax, books, shea butter, plant, space rocks, mirror, spray enamel, and stained wood; 96 ½ x 76 ¼ x 30 in. (245.11 × 193.675 × 76.2 cm). Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Rashid Johnson, Self Portrait Laying on Jack Johnson’s Grave, 2006. Lambda print; 40 ½ x 49 ½ in. (102.9 × 125.7 cm). Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Katie and Valerie, 2009. Archival pigment print; 40 ¾ x 32 ¾ in. (103.5 × 83.2 cm). Melissa and Russ Wight, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Rashid Johnson, Self-Portrait with My Hair Parted Like Frederick Douglass, 2003. Lambda print; 56 × 43 ¾ in. (142.2 × 111.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Susan and Lewis Manilow Collection of Chicago Artists, 2006.26. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Rashid Johnson, Green Belt, 2009. Spray enamel on Lambda print; 62 × 48 in. (157.5 × 121.9 cm). Collection of Evan Boris and Monique Meloche, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rashid Johnson, Jonathan with Eyes Closed, 1999. Toned silver gelatin print; 21 ½ x 27 ½ in. (54.6 × 69.9 cm). Collection of Paul and Dedrea Gray, Chicago. Photo: Michael Tropea, Chicago.
Rashid Johnson, Brother with Knowledge of Other Planets, 2007. Lambda print; 60 × 75 in. (152.4 × 190.5 cm). Collection of Mary Stowell, Winnetka. Image courtesy of the artist.

About

MCA Chicago presents Chicago-born, New York–based artist Rashid Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition, surveying the first 14 years of his career. Deftly working in a range of media—including photography, painting, sculpture, and video—Johnson incorporates commonplace objects from his childhood into his work in a process he describes as “hijacking the domestic.” The artist transforms these everyday materials—such as plants, books, record albums, photographs, shea butter, and soap—into conceptually loaded and visually compelling works that challenge entrenched ways of thinking about the black experience and emphasize its plurality.

Johnson explores the physicality of his materials to investigate the construction of identity, both visually and conceptually, in a practice that is steeped in individual experience while invoking shared cultural references. Throughout his work, he enters into dialogue with black American creative and intellectual figures whose impact has transcended race, extending the legacy of these cultural icons. Message to Our Folks, Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition, examines how his work has developed over the course of his career.

While Johnson’s works are grounded in a dialogue with modern and contemporary art history, specifically abstraction and appropriation, they also give voice to an Afro-futurist narrative in which the artist commingles references to experimental musician Sun Ra, jazz great Miles Davis, and rap group Public Enemy, to name just a few, with various symbols including that of Sigma Pi Phi (also known as the Boulé), the first African American Greek-letter organization, and writings by civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, among others. In addition to exploring his own personal and cultural history, the artist humorously shares his metaphysical journey with us as he contemplates the creation of the universe, art, and the self.

Message to Our Folks is titled after a 1969 album by avant-garde jazz collective Art Ensemble of Chicago. The exhibition is organized by Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Pamela Alper Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. A fully illustrated catalogue, the most comprehensive documentation of Johnson’s work to date, accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition tours to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Jun 1–Sep 8, 2013; and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, Sep 20, 2013–Jan 6, 2014.

Video

Installation view

Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, MCA Chicago, Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Funding

Lead support for Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks is generously provided by The Joyce Foundation and Margot and George Greig.

Additional generous support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; Mary Ittelson; The Estate of Edward Anixter; The Efroymson Family Fund; Jack and Sandra Guthman; David Kordansky Gallery; Hauser & Wirth; Massimo De Carlo/Carlson Gallery, Milan-London; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Paul Gray and Dedrea Armour Gray; Marilyn and Larry Fields; Susan D. Bowey; Paul and Linda Gotskind; Lenore and Adam Sender; David Shuman; Dr. Daniel S. Berger; Galerie Guido W. Baudach; Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin H. Nesbitt; Monique Meloche and Evan Boris; and Lynn and Allen Turner.

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