You must first login or register to follow this artist.

b. 1977, USA

Rashid Johnson Biography

Whether working with photography, installation, film, painting, sculpture, or drawing, Rashid Johnson creates works that are marked by narrative possibilities, examining the complexities of cultural identity and history in the contemporary world.

Read More

Freestyle

Johnson first garnered critical acclaim with his participation in Freestyle (2001), a group exhibition curated by Thelma Golden that featured works by 28 young black artists at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. He showed a series of photographic portraits, depicting an African-American homeless man that he had encountered in his home city of Chicago.

Black soap

Since then, Johnson’s practice has broadened to encompass diverse media. A recurring material is black soap, used for cleansing in West Africa—where the artist lived as a child—and also for people with sensitive skin. Johnson usually melts black soap and wax and paints with them to create gestural, abstract paintings such as those in the ‘Cosmic Slop’ series (2011).

Anxious Men

Johnson is perhaps most known for his ‘Anxious Men’ series, which began in 2015 as black soap paintings in which abstract portraits of black faces were scratched onto the surface. While the artist first envisioned them as self-portraits, the emotional drive of the paintings reflects the universal experience of anxiety shared by humankind. Later ‘Anxious Men’ works are also made from ceramic tiles and mirror pieces, forming such mosaics as The Broken Five (2019), which shows a row of five figures delineated in black outlines.

Other artworks and motifs

Personal and collective experiences of African-Americans receive careful contemplation in Johnson’s works. In the photograph I Talk White (2003), a white substance spells out the title on a mirror, alluding to the preconceived notions of Blackness and racialisation of speech. The Hikers (2019), a seven-minute film in which two young black men run into each other on a mountain peak, explores the anxiety that comes from unexpected meetings in an isolated space.

Plants are another recurring motif in Rashid Johnson’s artworks that testify to the breadth of his practice. ‘Escape Collage’ series, begun in 2016, is made up of the artist’s own or borrowed photographic images of exotic places, featuring palm trees and the ocean, and African masks in an allusion to imaginary escapes. In 2016, Johnson installed a massive labyrinth of tropical plants in the Garage Atrium at the Moscow Museum of Art, titled Within Our Gates, which contained such items as books by W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Frantz Fanon, and cultural objects such as shea butter and African rugs.

Exhibitions and More

Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, a solo exhibition encompassing the first 14 years of Johnson’s career, was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2012, after which it travelled to Miami Art Museum (2012), Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (2013); and High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2013). In 2012, Johnson directed a film adaptation of the 1939 novel Native Son by Richard Wright.

Biography by Ocula | 2020

Rashid Johnson Featured Artworks

View All (76)
Bruise Painting Until Until” by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork painting
Rashid JohnsonBruise Painting "Until Until”, 2021Oil on linen
122.6 x 96.5 x 5.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Bruise Painting Easy Street by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork painting
Rashid JohnsonBruise Painting "Easy Street", 2021Oil on linen
239.4 x 304.8 x 5.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Portrait of a Broken Man by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork mixed media
Rashid JohnsonPortrait of a Broken Man, 2019Ceramic tile, mirror tile, spray enamel, bronze, oil stick, black soap, and wax
73 1/2 x 48 x 3 inches
David Kordansky Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled Escape Collage by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork mixed media
Rashid JohnsonUntitled Escape Collage, 2017Ceramic tile, mirror tile, branded red oak flooring, vinyl, spray enamel, oil stick, black soap, and wax
246.4 x 307.3 x 6.4 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled Microphone Sculpture by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork mixed media
Rashid JohnsonUntitled Microphone Sculpture, 2018Bronze panel, ceramic tile, mirror tile, animal skin, books, shea butter, ceramic, plant, oil stick, black soap, and wax
243.8 x 182.9 x 15.6 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Contact Gallery
Falling Man by Rashid Johnson contemporary artwork mixed media
Rashid JohnsonFalling Man, 2016Mirror tile, white ceramic tile, spray enamel, vinyl, black soap, wax
245.1 x 185.4 x 5.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire

Rashid Johnson Recent Exhibitions

View All (8)

Rashid Johnson Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Gstaad, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Menorca, Monte Carlo, New York, Somerset, Southampton, St. Moritz, Zurich

Rashid Johnson In Ocula Magazine

View All (11)

In Ocula Advisory

Rashid Johnson In Related Press

Rashid Johnson In Video & Audio

Be among the first to know when new artworks and exhibitions by Rashid Johnson are added to Ocula.
Sign Up