Meredith Malone discusses Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, the first major solo museum exhibition to survey the career of this Chicago-born, New York-based artist. Using photography, painting, sculpture, and video, Johnson challenges entrenched ways of thinking about the black experience in America and, by extension, seminal issues of race in today’s society. Johnson incorporates commonplace objects from his childhood into his work in a process he describes as “hijacking the domestic.” He transforms these materials—plants, books, record albums, photographs, shea butter, soap—into conceptually loaded and visually compelling art that investigates the construction of identity. Steeped in individual experience while invoking shared cultural references, Johnson's work also calls upon black American creative and intellectual figures, extending the legacy of these cultural icons.
Rashid Johnson, Triple Consciousness, 2009. Black soap, wax, vinyl in album covers, spray enamel, shea butter, plant, and brass, 48 3/4 x 97 1/2 x 6 1/4". Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago. Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago