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.