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Rashid Johnson

b. 1977, USA

First Friends, 2013

Burned red oak flooring, black soap, wax and spray enamel

184.2 x 125.7 x 7.6 cm

First Friends by Rashid Johnson is related to a broader body of work exploring the use of black soap and wax to craft ambiguous “character” portraits. The works are constructed with burnt red oak flooring, black soap, wax, and spray enamel - materials that Johnson has strong personal associations with, reminding him of various life experiences growing up.

The black soap in particular directly references Johnson’s African heritage, while simultaneously reflecting his struggles to connect with his cultural roots as his parents transitioned away from their Afrocentric practices to becoming middle-class working professionals. Through the exploration of materials that are imbued with history and identity, Johnson’s conceptual practice brings into question what it means when these physical objects lose their original meanings and functions, and how these intangible shifts can influence our personal narratives in drastic ways.

Photo: Axel Dupeux/Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, USA)

Rashid Johnson is an American artist who composes searing meditations on race and class while establishing an organic formal vocabulary that fuses a variety of sculptural and painterly traditions. Though he employs materials drawn from specific autobiographical contexts and his practice had its beginnings in photography and conceptual art, Johnson is equally interested in testing the ability of abstract visual languages to communicate across cultural boundaries. He is interested in conveying a visceral experience of art, and this breadth of vision has resulted in a wide range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects, installations, videos and performances.

Though the narratives that influence and embody his works are very personal to Johnson, the universal nature of the themes he touches upon inadvertently triggers a deep sense of relation and understanding, in particular his series of works that reflect on anxiety.

Johnson acquired his BA in Photography from Columbia College, USA, and subsequently undertook his Masters at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, USA. He has garnered commissions from esteemed institutions inclyding the Queens Museum and the Metropolitan Opera, and held solo exhibitions at the Moderna Museet, Sweden (2023), Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong (2023), The Metropolitan Opera, USA (2021), and the National Gallery of Canada (2021).

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