Rashid Johnson: Stranger
From May 27 to September 10, 2017, Hauser & Wirth Somerset will present Stranger by African artist Rashid Johnson. The artist employs a wide range of materials and images to explore themes of art history, literature, philosophy, and personal and cultural identity. His exhibition at the gallery unfolds with a combination of painting, sculpture, installation, and drawing, all completed during his residency.
The exhibition takes its title from an essay Stranger in the Village by James Baldwin. Originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 1953, it is the account of Baldwin’s experiences as a young African-American man, living in a small village in Switzerland.
The artist makes use of many Afrocentric materials which comes at first from his personal experience; he was raised in the suburbs of Chicago in an Afrocentric home where these substances were regularly used. Johnson is interested in how these products, such as shea butter, have been used by African-Americans to connect with an idea of Africanness. Whilst he does have an engagement with these materials on the level of what he refers to as ‘cultural signifiers’, he views their employment in his work as simultaneously closely aligned to modernist influences, when artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque explored the aesthetics of African art.
Rashid Johnson was born in 1977 in Chicago. He holds a bachelor of fine art degree in photography from Columbia College, Chicago and a master of fine art from the Art Institute of Chicago. Working across the disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, and video, Johnson explores his personal past and identity within the larger context of African American intellectual and creative history. He has featured his works at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004); Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (2005); Sculpture Centre, New York (2009); Venice Biennale (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2012); Miami Art Museum (2012); and High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2013).
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