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Premiere of Rashid Johnson’s First Film!

The films keep coming.  And the latest is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.

Okay—I’m going to divulge a little New York Close Up production secret. Assuming it’s not already obvious to our viewers, but the bulk of the interview material for the films we’ve released up to this point—and no doubt for future ones—was drawn from a marathon weekend shoot session at The 1896 Studios & Stages in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Ten artists, four member shoot crew, three production assistants, two producer/directors, one gracious host—we all came together to shoot ten interviews in three frosty days in early March.

Fortunately for us, Rashid Johnson was our very first interview. Though one of the founding principles of New York Close Up is to get out of both our and the artists’ heads and into their lives, what’s going on in Rashid’s head was just a little too interesting to not make it the focus of his first film: Lawrence Weiner’s absurdly reductive yet completely right-on definition of a table; a mysterious and sudden disappearance of Kwanza; an imaginary secret society of black thinkers stretching from W. E. B. Du Bois to Chuck D. All these various influences, anecdotes, and ideas needed pride of place in his first film.

And of course, we were only able to include a small portion of what Rashid talked about. He told this crazy-wonderful story about how as a child his chainmail shirt-wearing, Prince-obsessed uncle came to stay with him and…but you know what? We’ll save that for another film.

ABOVE: Artist Rashid Johnson prepares for an interview with the Art21 film crew at The 1896 Studios & Stages. Bushwick, Brooklyn, 03.25.11. Production still from the series New York Close Up. © Art21, Inc. 2011.

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