Rashid Johnson b. 1977
The New Black Yoga (2011)
Rashid Johnson’s installations frequently take the form of embellished support structures that display found objects, imbuing them with a new significance that hovers between the archaeological and the talismanic. These collections of items—which together build an iconography that spans literature, music, intellectual history, and echoes of the artist’s childhood in Chicago—reflect deeply personal references interwoven with pervasive cultural narratives. Exemplifying this facet of his work, The Ritual (2015) collates books, a vinyl record, and a sculpture by the artist’s wife, Sheree Hovsepian, as well as forms modeled from shea butter—an emollient salve derived from the African shea nut that recurs throughout Johnson’s work. Cosmic Slop “Bitter” (2015) is created from a concoction of wax mixed with a black West African soap that is often used for the treatment of sensitive skin. Inscribed with the artist’s dense mark-making, this work merges the modernist tradition of the black monochrome with the cultural resonances of its unconventional materials. 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.