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Tom Morton on Rashid Johnson: Infinite Blackness

4 Mar 2013

The Moment of Creation, 2011
Mirrored tile, black soap, wax, vinyl, CB radio, plant, books, oyster shells, shea butter, books, space rocks, ink jet photograph on glass
182.9 x 335.3 x 29.8 cm / 72 x 132 x 11 3/4 in

Recommended reading from Parkett 90: Infinite Blackness by Tom Morton of magazine. An excerpt:

Johnson’s sculptures, photographs, and videos proceed through reference and sheer density of information. His best-known works, shelf-like wall pieces such as Wanted (2011), gather together found items that allude variously to African American intellectual history, pop culture, the anointing of the skin, the free circulation of ideas, and the unstable stuff of value. Stacked books are a regular feature, here, their titles (The Souls of Black Folk, Death by Black Hole, Time Flies) and prominent African American authors (sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the complicatedly conservative comedian Bill Cosby) speaking of whole explosive cosmoses contained within their covers, like energy packed in a hydrogen atom. LP sleeves are also common, including artists like the psychedelic funk outfit Parliament and soul singer turned pastor Al Green. Shea butter is also common—the substance is derived from the African shea nut that is used in moisturizers and cosmetics, in Johnson’s work it recalls Joseph Beuys’ magically charged measures of fat. Houseplants also appear on the shelves, alongside CB radios and ordinary stones transformed into “space rocks” by a coat of gold spray paint. Taken together, we might imagine these things as agents of change. By their grace, a mind is expanded, and a soul gladdened. Rough skin is softened, and carbon dioxide transformed into oxygen. A silence is broken, and dull geology gleams and glitters.

Keep reading, via Hauser & Wirth.

Rashid Johnson on Wikipedia; Rita Ackermann on Hauser & Wirth

11 Feb 2013

Rashid Johnson New Growth

If you’re looking to read up on Rashid Johnson before New Growth opens here at Ballroom on March 8, perhaps his Wikipedia page is not the best place to start. As Glasstire reported from Johnson’s talk at the Art Aspen Preview Party this past August,

It was kind of odd to see Johnson introduced as a “post-black” artist. The notion perhaps came from his Wikipedia entry, which he immediately dismissed, saying as he started “whoever wrote my Wikipedia entry is totally wrong.”

So perhaps your time will be better spent curled up with one of the many PDFs available from the artist’s press archives at the Hauser & Wirth or David Kordansky Gallery websites. Ian Bourland’s “The Brother from Another Planet” [PDF] seems like a good place to start.

And speaking of Hauser & Wirth, Vulture has a profile of their new West Chelsea gallery space in which former Chinati artist-in-residence Rita Ackermann offers the following assessment of the organization’s frank approach to art dealing:

“You can be a great artist but still make really horrible decisions,” says Ackermann, who felt that, when she met Marc Payot, the also-Swiss head of Hauser & Wirth in New York, “it was the first time in my life when I had spoken honestly and completely with a dealer.” Payot tells her, she says, “This is a better one, that is a worse one, that is a piece of shit.”

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