Lismore Castle Arts is delighted to present the first major solo exhibition by Rashid Johnson in Ireland, encompassing large scale works on paper, 2 film works, and several new sculptural works made for the gardens.
Inspired by a childhood steeped in African American cultural influences, Rashid Johnson creates layered artworks that engage a conversation between personal biography and its relationship to larger cultural and historical narratives. Johnson works predominantly in mixed media sculptures, paintings, and drawings, combining bare materials such as mirror, wood, and shea butter with loaded iconic objects including record covers, CB radios, historical books, and common domestic objects. Throughout his career, Johnson has explored the ways in which we form our sense of belonging to races and communities, investigating the relationship between familiar objects and identity.
For Lismore, Rashid is making a group of new sculptures employing his minimalist three-dimensional steel black grids, which will house a variety of objects including busts painted to resemble shea butter, and will act as a living greenhouse as plants in the gardens begin to intertwine with the sculpture over the summer months. Playing with forms taken from the Minimalist tradition – Sol LeWitt’s white open cubes come to mind – Johnson breaks the rational structure open and embeds loaded objects within it, in a sense hijacking or occupying the minimalist trope. The artist will also create several new sculptural works for the Upper Terrace of the Gardens, working with the Gardens team to use the sculptures as planters.
Within the gallery, Rashid responds to the vast gallery space by creating his largest drawings to date, and taking up the bulk of the main space. These new drawings explore the theme of anxiety that runs throughout the artist’s practice. Each drawing presents a grid of rudimentary faces rendered in dark-colored oil-stick on cotton rag. The frenetic motion of Johnson’s hand emphasizes the titular anxiety of the characters depicted, their eyes rapidly drawn spirals, their mouths zig-zagged slashes. Johnson has described this series as a response to the current global social and political climate, and the challenge that people worldwide face in navigating and negotiating their own positions therein.
The exhibition space will be book-ended by two film works, shot in 16mm and transferred to digital. Representing the performative aspect of Johnson’s practice, The New Black Yoga (2011) is a short film depicting an enigmatic scenario in which five African-American men perform choreographed movements on a deserted beach. Their gestures alternately appear balletic, athletic, and martial, conjuring a range of potential narratives that ultimately remain elusive. Samuel in Space, commissioned by Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas, in 2013, continues the trajectory as a singular, totemic black male dancer observes the vast high desert landscape before him and, in a combination of dance and gymnastics, tumbles through the desert at sunrise. In both works, the black male body is a site of reflection on histories past and progression towards rejuvenation and new meaning in the future.
The exhibition will be accompanied later in the summer by a fully illustrated catalogue, featuring install images of the exhibition at Lismore.
The exhibition is kindly supported by Hauser & Wirth. Images courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, United States) lives and works in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee WI (2017), Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City MO (2017), McNay Art Center, San Antonio TX (2017), Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2016), GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy (2016), The Drawing Center, New York NY (2015; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2014); Ballroom Marfa, Texas (2013); High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2013); Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis (2013); Miami Art Museum (2012); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2012); and South London Gallery (2012). Selected group exhibitions include The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014 – 2015); 30 Americans, organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, traveling to Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (2014), Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville (2013 – 2014), Milwaukee Art Museum (2012), Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (2012), Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2011 – 2012), North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh (2011), and Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2008 – 2009); Variations: Conversations in and Around Contemporary Painting, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014); Body Doubles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014); Angel of History, Beaux-arts de Paris: L'école nationale supérieure (2013); and In the Holocene, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2012). Johnson’s work has been featured in major biennials, including the 2012 Shanghai Biennale; the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); and the International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Prague (2005).