New Growth was a solo exhibition of new work by Rashid Johnson. For this exhibition, Johnson combined both personally and historically loaded material–such as shea butter and black soap–with LP covers and books in complex paintings, sculptures and installations that confound the uniformity of collective identity and multicultural representation. Beginning with the question: “What would happen if Sun Ra, George Washington Carver and Robert Smithson started a community together in the desert?,” Johnson attempts to answer this hypothetical by drawing on personal and historical references. New Growth‘s playful scrutiny intertwined cosmology, escapism and irrigation in a re-contextualization of the lines between past, present and future in a desert setting.
The concept of physical manipulation of biomaterial into an abstract form ran through the work on display, with references to the transformation and rehabilitation of bodies, landscapes and the identities embedded within them. This played out most dramatically in the outdoor installation in which the sun-baked gravel of the gallery courtyard was irrigated with shea butter, terraforming the high desert grasslands of Far West Texas.
In keeping with Ballroom Marfa’s mission, New Growth featured newly commissioned work including the video Samuel in Space and the Shea Butter Irrigation System–both of which were produced during the artist’s stay in Marfa. Works in wax, burned wood, tile and mirror, as well as brass and wood chairs and rugs rounded out the exhibition. A film program curated by Rashid Johnson in collaboration with MoMA film curator Josh Siegel also ran throughout the exhibition.
To inaugurate New Growth, Ballroom Marfa hosted a weekend of festivities, including an opening reception which featured a performance by multi-instrumentalist legend Kahil El’Zabar and saxophone master Hamiet Bluiett, whose musical styles range from avant-garde to bebop.
All events were free and open to the public.
New Growth has been made possible through the support of Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, the Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston, Texas Commission on the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation and Hauser & Wirth Gallery, with generous contributions by Ballroom Marfa members.
Special thanks to Yoseff Ben-Yehuda, Brice Beasley, Biff Bolen, Ross Cashiola, Vicente Celis, Rob Crowley, Robert Davis, Christie DeNizio, Hilary duPont, Michael Eason, Alex Ernst, Cuca Flores, Cristina Garcés Hoyos, Jose Grajeda, Ginger Griffice, Barbara Hill, Jay Hines, Celia Hollander, David Hollander, Rod Lamborn, Brian Lewis, Chase Lindley, Susannah Lipsey, Jeff Matheis, Matt Panuska, Nancy Patterson, Ignacio Perez Meruane, Samuel Lee Roberts, Francisco Rosas, Nancy Sanders, Adeline Schowengerdt, Krista Steinhauer, Libby Tilley and Justin Waugh.
Community dinner by Food Shark.