• art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-001

    “I was born while my mother was finishing her PhD at Northwestern University. She taught African history and African American history there for many years. I think my mother being a history professor had a pretty strong effect on me. I remember having large groups of academics and scholars over at the house, eating and drinking, and witnessed a lot of those conversations. I grew up enveloped in an Afrocentric conversation.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Souls of Black Folk, 2010. Black soap, wax, books, vinyl, brass, shea butter, plants, space rocks, mirrors, gold paint, stained wood; 114 x 124.75 x 24.125 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


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    “But then there was this moment in my childhood in which Afrocentrism kind of died. Afrocentrism had no permanence. You could almost start to imagine it as something fairly ridiculous. One day you’re invested in this idea of acquiring an African identity, and then the next day this is not necessarily the most important thing in your life.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Death by Black Hole, 2010. Steel, black soap, wax, books, shea butter, plant, space rocks, mirror, gold paint, stained wood; 96.5 x 76.25 x 30 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-003

    “We have these transitions amongst African Americans quite a bit. My grandmother was ‘colored’; that was the thing they called each other. My mother was a ‘Negro.’ I was ‘black.’ My sister is ‘African American.’ These kinds of complex transitions are things I’m interested in.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. A Place for Black Moses, 2010. Black ceramic tile, black soap, wax, books, vinyl, brass, shea butter, space rock, star scapes, plants, stained wood; 39.25 x 78.5 x 30.625 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-004

    “I was born in a fairly middle class home. I understand the history of oppression. I also have some perspective on which of those things I’ve been most affected by. And I think it’s important for me to look very specifically at the things I’ve been affected by, rather than carry the burden of the things that maybe I haven’t been as aggressively affected by.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Two Rugs, 2010. Persian rug, zebra skin, gold embroidery; 120 x 94 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


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    “I think that that can offend some people if you’re thinking that the black experience is a monolithic one—which is a perspective that a lot of people have on it—that essentially every black character has the same story, and that story is four hundred years of oppression, and slavery, and a plantation, and then somehow we ended up somewhere in the North. That’s not my story, you know.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. How Ya Like Me Now, 2010. Persian rug, gold embroidery, shea butter; 7.09 x 102.56 x 143.50 inches. Installation view: There are Stranger Villages, Galerie Guido Baudach, Berlin. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-006

    “I have a different story and I’m comfortable saying that I come from a family that’s had opportunities and privilege. Those aren’t things I’m disappointed by. I think those are things that really give you the chance to look at the black experience as a bigger conversation. It’s not just a monolithic lineage that we all believe we kind of understand and that unauthored history books give us to understand how we got here.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Black Yoga, 2010. Persian rug, spray paint, DVD, TV; 19.69 x 110.24 x 138.78 inches. Installation view: There are Stranger Villages, Galerie Guido Baudach, Berlin. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-007

    “My work has a lot do with self-reflection and thinking about the black experience as not being affected by the white experience. I think there is a lot of history, and a lot of books written, and a lot of conversations had about how the black character has been affected by the white character’s relationship to him.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Dr. Minton), 2010. Gelatin silver print; 111.1 x 89.5 cm. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-008

    “There are no white men in my work. It’s as if you people don’t exist. I don’t know exactly how I got there, but my work has nothing to do with racism. It has nothing to do with the effect that whites have on my story.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Krista & Natasha, 2010. Archival pigment print; 44.89 x 35.24 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-009

    “It purely has to do with the conversation that’s being had through the fictional black characters or with me to the materials and to the things I’m reading and/or listening to. It’s incredibly selfish and it’s not intended to help you or to help anybody else negotiate anything. If it in any way works that way, or it becomes a vehicle or an opportunity for someone to reach into a bucket of what I think of as a kind of complex set of tools, then that’s interesting for me.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The Sweet, Sweet Runner Garden and Trophy Room, 2010. Steel, black soap, wax, shea butter, plants, mirror, Persian rug, spray paint, books, vinyl, space rock, dvd player & monitor; 120 x 200 x 102 inches. Installation view: Our Kind of People, Salon 94, New York. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-010

    “My work is not a reaction and it has nothing to do with a call and a response to anything outside of what it is that I’ve contributed to it.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Watch Out, 2010. Spray paint on mirror, 109 x 139 x 3.5 cm. Installation view: Our Kind of People, Salon 94, New York. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-011

    “While I’m interested in having a conversation about the black experience, and there’s very little question that all of that’s in the work, at the same time I’m a materialist. I’m an aesthete at heart.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Space Twins, 2010. Tiles, wood, wax, spray paint, plant; 71.65 x 71.65 x 7.87 inches. Installation view: 25 Days After October, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-012

    “I want to make beautiful photographs, I want to make something interesting to look at, and I want to make something that opens up the opportunity to have a bigger conversation. I’ve always been interested in attractive things I’ve never shied away from that.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Installation view: 25 Days After October, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy. Left to right: How a Star Is Born (2010), Run (2010), History All Over Again (2010), Space Twins (2010), Sun (2010), and American Tire (2010). Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-013

    “I’m a guy whose work really speaks as much at times to Cy Twombly as it does to David Hammons, or any number of people I’ve been compared to. I think that my relationship to art as a practice and as a maker has as much to do with where and how and why my work exists, as to what I think of as building blocks or bricks in a bigger story.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Love Souls, 2010. Mirror, wood, wax, LP, CB radios, books, shea butter, space rock; 72.83 x 118.11 x 11.81 inches. Installation view: 25 Days After October, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-014

    “My blackness and the issues around that have a strong effect on how my work is born, and around the conversation that inevitably will happen around my work, but I don’t think that it’s really the sum of what my work is. And I think it’s important for me to make that clear, because more often than not the conversation leads into a certain direction, and I’m a contributor to that.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Long Distance, 2010. Mirror tiles, black soap, wax, vinyl, books, CB radio, shea butter, space rock, plant, paint; 96 x 14 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-015

    “Formally, I’m trying to approach art making and object making in a way that is a part of the bigger history of art. I’m also interested in making something that doesn’t necessarily, in every bit of itself, explain a time or a place. There’s an opportunity there for fiction. There’s a chance to maybe lie, you know?” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Long Distance, (detail), 2010. Mirror tiles, black soap, wax, vinyl, books, CB radio, shea butter, space rock, plant, paint; 96 x 14 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


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    Rashid Johnson. Outer Space Is Illmatic, 2010. Paint on canvas; 24.01 x 20.08 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-017

    “When I was young, my mother would read LeRoi Jones poems to me from his book The Dead Lecturer (1963). As I got older, I would look for information about LeRoi Jones, but he’d become Amiri Baraka. I was fascinated with this idea that LeRoi Jones never died. He can never die. He just became Amiri Baraka. There will never be an obituary for LeRoi Jones. The opportunity for this character LeRoi Jones to essentially live forever was really interesting to me.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The New Escapist Promised Land Garden and Recreation Center, 2009. Installation view: Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-018

    “My show The Dead Lecturer (2009) was an opportunity to bring that environment into a gallery space and have it be this all-encompassing thing that you could visit and almost try to participate with. Essentially, the Escapist Club is supposed to be a magical environment, and I think it goes back to the fact that LeRoi Jones never died.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Installation view: The Dead Lecturer, Memphis Power House, Tennessee, 2009. Left to right: The Dead Lecturer (2009), The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (2009), and Cosmic Dojo (2009). Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


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    Rashid Johnson. Cosmic Dojo, 2009. Black soap, wax, shea butter, plants, brass, 92 x 192 x 7 in. Installation view: The Dead Lecturer, Memphis Power House, Tennessee, 2009. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


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    Rashid Johnson. Cosmic Dojo (detail), 2009. Black soap, wax, shea butter, plants, brass; 92 x 192 x 7 in. Installation view: The Dead Lecturer, Memphis Power House, Tennessee, 2009. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-021

    “The characters that are depicted in the space are imagined as living for eternity. They have this opportunity to participate with things that happen in the past, but also have the opportunity to participate with the now space. It’s really kind of strange.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Installation view: Smoke and Mirrors, 2009. Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, May 10-August 3, 2009. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-022

    “I was invested in the mystical at that time and in trying to depict something that seems unnatural but that is actually happening. I was trying to imagine this space where these guys were able to travel back and forth and speak to one another, participating in some grand dialogue that I would really like to witness.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Cosmic Topology, 2009. Black soap, wax, shea butter, brass, silver gelatin print, and plants; 96 x 144 x 8 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-023

    “Growing up, I hadn’t seen much work by African American artists about a kind of black elite space, or about these really fascinating historical characters such as Thurgood Marshall. So I wanted to make something that spoke to a moment of pride or to a group of characters that I thought would be interesting.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Installation view: Smoke and Mirrors, 2009. Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, May 10-August 3, 2009. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-024

    “I developed a group that I called ‘The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club.’ I started imagining these meetings of characters in a den for this secret society, this fictional environment.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club The Harlem Portraits, 2009. Black and white Lambda print; 60 x 47 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


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    Rashid Johnson. Sarah with Space Rock, 2009. Archival pigment print; 40 7/8 x 32 7/8 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-026

    Rashid Johnson. Katie and Valerie, 2009. Archival pigment print; 40.75 x 32.75 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-027

    “My mother’s library had a tremendous effect on the way my work lives today. I’d cruise around my mother’s library and the titles of the books would blow me away. I didn’t know what was in them. It just seemed incredibly complex—whether it was Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of The Negro Intellectual (1967) or Carter G. Woodson’s The Mis-Education of The Negro (1933). I’d look at the titles and imagine the depth in those things.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Installation view: Other Aspects, 2009. Left to right: Sun Goddess (2009), Four For the Talking Cure (2009), and Pyramid (2009). Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-028

    “At a certain point, my uncle moved in with us and took over my mother’s library as his space. My uncle…he thought that he was Prince, and I thought that he was Prince. If you can, imagine a library with Prince playing, the smell of reefer, and my uncle wearing a chain-link shirt.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Pyramid, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, CB radio, brass, books, glass, spray paint, plants, wood, shea butter, space rocks; 133 x 194 x 10 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-029

    “At that point my father’s interest was communication devices—a lot of CB radios and records—and these were also on the bookshelves. This strangely mixed group of materials is very much an inspiration for a lot of the things I make now, or has without question informed those things.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Pyramid, detail, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, CB radio, brass, books, glass, spray paint, plants, wood, shea butter, space rocks; 133 x 194 x 10 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-030

    “I was really, really interested in this idea of something to put something on, I liked kind of the semiotic of how something exists and why it exists and what we call it. From there you start seeing me kind of using the things that were really around me. Whether they were the books I was reading, the records I was listening to, the things I was applying to my body. And all those materials began to kind of gel together to form what I thought was my conversation.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Pyramid, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, CB radio, brass, books, glass, spray paint, plants, wood, shea butter, space rocks; 133 x 194 x 10 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-031

    “I think there’s always been this thing in my work that I’ve always been interested in around the domestic. And around kind of hijacking things that we’re familiar with and you know essentially kind of occupying them.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Sun Goddess, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, VHS cassettes, shea butter, space rocks; 92 x 122 x 7 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-032

    “Growing up We celebrated Kwanza and my mother wore dashikis and had an afro. But the thing that I think is most interesting for me is that one day they just weren’t wearing dashikis anymore and there were no more afros. And we weren’t celebrating Kwanza anymore. That transition from Afrocentrism...to your parents becoming essentially just like middle-class soccer moms and what have you...that transition and that dichotomy, I think, is why humor has become so interesting for me around that conversation.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Sun Goddess (detail) 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, VHS cassettes, shea butter, space rocks; 92 x 122 x 7 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-033

    “I always say black Americans tried to go from the south to the north. Then you have, say Marcus Garvey, and he says ‘Let’s go back to Africa.’ Then you have, say Sun Ra, and he says ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re going to go to Saturn.’ And then you know I think I always talk about a book by Paul Beatty called The White Boy Shuffle were the protagonist suggests that ‘All black people should just kill themselves.’ So it’s this kind of evolution of this kind of escapist practice that I think is for me very funny.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Electric Universe, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl, wood, book, brass, incense, shea butter, space rocks; 49 x 47.75 x 7 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-034

    “Aaron McGruder writes a comic strip called Boondocks. He had this quote where he says ‘Why does every black person think that they were chased by dogs and sprayed by hoses?’ And I think what he’s trying to get to is that it’s important for you to in a lot of ways live your own history. And if you are consistently burdened by a bigger history that may have affected your existence but is not your specific story then you’re doing yourself a disservice.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Self-portrait as the black Jimmy Connors in the finals of the New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club Summer Tennis Tournament, 2008. Lambda print; 60 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-035

    “It’s not fully about the predicament of history. It’s about what you’re able to author yourself and how you’re able to form the future rather than living purely kind of in the past.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson, Citizen Band (Explorations in Topology), 2008. Shelves, wax, black soap, shea butter, mixed media, and ed. 5/5 of Prince of Mathematicians; 48 x 96 x 12 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-036

    “A lot of the work that I grew up seeing by black artists very much depicted a problem. I wanted to make something that didn’t necessarily speak to a problem.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, 2008. Blackened gunmetal steel; 126 x 141 x 24 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-037

    “There’s a reason that most of my groups are made up. It’s because the groups that exist to talk about the things that I’m interested in don’t fulfill what it is I’m interested in talking about.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The New Negro Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008. Lambda print; 64 1/2 x 51 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


  • art21-nycu-johnson-artwork-038

    “When I talk about the black elite, I’m not just purely talking about black people with money who went to whatever schools or who were involved in whatever organizations. I’m talking about this bigger idea of black thinkers. People who set and change the discourse—who move the puck—rather than an anecdote around black people who have acquired a couple dollars and can get a house in Oak Bluffs. I’m not trying to depict that.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. Self Portrait as The Professor of Astronomy, Miscegenation, and Critical Theory at “The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club” Center for Graduate Studies, 2008. Black and white Lambda print; 49 x 80 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On


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    “If you look at public intellectuals today, we’re getting into what I think is more of a micro conversation. You have the Skip Gateses and the Cornel Wests and the Randall Kennedys of the world. But are these guys Frederick Douglass? I think that would be a very difficult argument to make. What we have to think about is that the goals are very different.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett), 2007. Black and white Lambda print; 44 x 70 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich. Featured in the film Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.


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    “Douglass and characters like him are invested in grand macro conversations, these big, big, big walls to move. I think that now it’s a more nuanced conversation, and I think we’re having an opportunity to deal with the complexity of that conversation in the finer print.” — Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson. White Girl, 2007. Lambda print; 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Hauser & Wirth, London, New York and Zurich.


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