The Drawing Center will present Rashid Johnson: Anxious Men, a site-specific installation created by Johnson for the Drawing Room gallery. Universally accessible and employing common visual tropes such as the monochrome and the grid, Johnson’s work is also selfreferential, making specific allusion to his upbringing in Chicago in the late seventies and eighties and the Afro-centric values of his parents. The core of the exhibition is a new series of black-soapand-wax-on-tile portraits that Johnson calls his “anxious men.” Executed by digging into a waxy surface, they enact a kind of drawing through erasure and represent the first time Johnson has worked figuratively outside of photography or film, and on such a small scale. Whereas Johnson’s previous work has taken a more cerebral approach to questions of race and political identity, the drawn portraits confront the viewer with a visceral immediacy.
The portraits will be set within a multi-sensory environment that includes wallpaper depicting a photograph of the artist’s father from the year Johnson was born, and an audio sound track comprised of Melvin Van Peebles’s “Love, That’s America,” a song originally featured in Peebles’s 1970 film Watermelon Man and that was recently pressed into service by the Occupy Wall Street movement. In this way, the exhibition will create an immersive space that implicates not only the artist but also the viewer in its interrogation of selfhood and identity. Curated by Claire Gilman, Senior Curator.
Since distinguishing himself as the youngest artist in Freestyle, the landmark 2001 exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Johnson has established himself as one of the preeminent artists of his generation. Invoking such varied themes as the black experience in America, the dialogue between abstraction and figuration, and the relationship between art and personal identity.
Johnson's work is wide-ranging and has been discussed within the context of contemporary painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation, and even performance. Now, with the Anxious Men, drawing enters that list.
ABOUT RASHID JOHNSON
Rashid Johnson was born in Chicago in 1977. He was awarded a BA in photography from Columbia College, Chicago, in 2000, and earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Art Institute of Chicago; the High Museum, Atlanta; and the Miami Art Museum, among many others. In the last few years, Johnson's work has been featured in many group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale, the Shanghai Biennale, and shows at MAMBo Bologna; the MIT List Visual Arts Center; the Nasher Museum at Duke University; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt.
Johnson's work was the subject of a ten-year survey exhibition entitled Message to Our Folks, organized in 2012 by the MCA Chicago, which travelled to the Miami Art Museum; the High Museum, Atlanta; and the Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis. In 2012, he participated in the solo museum exhibition Shelter at the South London Gallery, and in spring 2013 Ballroom Marfa held a solo show of his work, entitled New Growth, which travelled to the MCA Denver in 2014. In 2014 Johnson had solo shows at Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland, and George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece.
The edition of the Drawing Papers series that will be published in conjunction with this exhibition will feature an essay by Claire Gilman, as well as contributions by poet Jeremy Sigler and the artist's mother, writer and historian Cheryl Johnson-Odim.
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