RASHID JOHNSON: MESSAGE TO OUR FOLKS
For Rashid Johnson's first major museum solo exhibition, the former Chicagoan and alumni of the UBS 12x12 exhibition series (2002), explores the complexities of black identity by creating a dialogue with legacies of black intellectual and popular figures through a process and materials-based practice of photographs, sculptures, videos, installations, and paintings that are rooted in his own identity as a black male in the U.S. A preeminent artist of the post-media generation, Johnson's sculptures, photographs, and installations evoke an other-worldly science fiction where Sun Ra meets Al Green and Mario Van Peebles, often incorporating found objects- plants, books, record albums, photographs, vessels, shea butter, for example- for their personal and universal connotations.
MCA Chicago presents Chicago-born, New York-based artist Rashid Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition, surveying the first ten years of his career. Incorporating commonplace objects from his childhood and using what he calls a process of “hijacking the domestic,” Johnson transforms materials such as wood, mirrors, tiles, shea butter, Persian rugs, CB radios, and plants into conceptually loaded and visually compelling sculptures. Through his work, Johnson defines a new paradigm for representation that is steeped in individual experience while also engaging in a conversation about shared cultural references. He offers his own multifaceted, sincere, and humorous life story, challenging traditional ways of thinking about black identity and the plurality of black experience and honoring creative and intellectual figures who are integral to American history, music, and culture.
Through the viewer’s own free association with the familiar objects incorporated into Johnson’s work, the exhibition opens up a dialogue with historically important figures ranging from W. E. B. Du Bois and Sun Ra to Miles Davis and Public Enemy. The title of the exhibition is taken from a 1969 album by avant-garde musicians Art Ensemble of Chicago, who performed with a variety of percussive found objects, spanning musical styles to radically redefine the rules of jazz. Inspired by their message, Johnson pays homage to these creative pioneers of his hometown and channels their nonconformist vision for his generation of artists.
This exhibition is curated by MCA Pamela Alper Associate Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm in close collaboration with Rashid Johnson. A fully illustrated catalogue, the most comprehensive documentation of Johnson’s work to date, accompanies the exhibition
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