‘There’s a generation of black artists before me who made work specifically about the black experience,’ says Johnson. ‘But I think for my generation, having grown up in the age of hip-hop and Black Entertainment Television, there’s less of a need to define the black experience so aggressively to a white audience. I think it gives us a different type of opportunity to have a more complex conversation around race and identity. It’s not a weapon for me, it’s more of an interest’.
– Rashid Johnson
Rashid Johnson was born in 1977 in Chicago IL. He received his BA in photography from Columbia College in Chicago and in 2005, Johnson studied for his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 2001, Johnson’s work was included in ‘Freestyle’, an exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem curated by Thelma Golden. The show featured 28 up-and-coming artists whose work Golden considered to be ‘post-black’, a term defined by Golden as ‘characterised by artists who were adamant about not being labeled as ‘black’ artists, though their work was steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness’. Johnson, 24 at the time and the youngest artist in the exhibition, presented photographs from his ‘Seeing in the Dark’ series of portraits of homeless African-American men in Chicago. The work drew critical attention, and since then, his practice has become central to the post-black movement.
Johnson’s mixed-media practice incorporates a wide-range of everyday materials and objects, includingwax, wood, steel, brass, shea butter, ceramic tile, books, records, VHS tapes, live plants, and CB radios. With shamanistic inspiration from both African-American and art history, many of Johnson’s more recent works employ these materials in a way that suggests an indefinite form of mysticism and a role as devotional objects.
Recent solo exhibitions include: ‘Rashid Johnson. Waves’, Hauser & Wirth, London, UK, 2020; the touring exhibition ‘Rashid Johnson. The Hikers’ at the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen CO, the Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico and at Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2019; ‘Provocations. Rashid Johnson’, Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond VA, 2018; ‘Rashid Johnson. No More Water’ at Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland, 2018; ‘Rashid Johnson. Hail We Now Sing Joy’ at The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City MO which traveled to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee WI, 2017; ‘New American Art’, Studio des Acacias, Paris, France, 2015; ‘Rashid Johnson. Anxious Men’, Drawing Center, New York, 2015; ‘Smile’, Hauser & Wirth London, UK, 2015; ‘Three Rooms’, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland, 2014; ‘Magic Numbers’, George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece, 2014; ‘New Growth’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver CO, 2014; ‘The Gathering’, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland, 2013; ‘New Growth’, Ballroom Marfa TX, 2013; ‘Shelter’, South London Gallery, London, UK, 2012; ‘Rumble’, Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2012 and the major touring exhibition ‘Message to Our Folks’ which opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL, 2012 and travelled to Miami Art Museum, Miami FL, 2012; and High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA, 2012 and most recently Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis MO, 2013.