Profile: Rashid Johnson (1977-)

Born in Chicago in 1977, Rashid Johnson is among an influential cadre of contemporary American artists whose work employs a wide range of media to explore themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, literature, philosophy, materiality, and critical history. After studying in the photography department of the Art Institute of Chicago, Johnson’s practice quickly expanded to embrace a wide range of media – including sculpture, painting, drawing, filmmaking, and installation – yielding a complex multidisciplinary practice that incorporates diverse materials rich with symbolism and personal history.

Johnson’s work is known for its narrative embedding of a pointed range of everyday materials and objects, often associated with his childhood and frequently referencing collective aspects of African American intellectual history and cultural identity. To date, Johnson has incorporated elements/materials/items as diverse as CB radios, shea butter, literature, record covers, gilded rocks, black soap, and tropical plants. Many of Johnson’s works convey rhythms of the occult and mystic: evoking his desire to transform and expand each included object’s field of association in the process of reception.

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