The New York-based artist showcases his sculptural, cultural shelving
Rashid Johnson grew up in Chicago, where his creative talents were nurtured by his mother, an academic. The parallels between the 37-year-old artist and his Chi-town contemporary, Kanye West, are striking. Like West, Johnson produces work that radically questions cultural and social assumptions about what it means to be African American, and how the black experience might be reflected through art.
“Johnson uses African skincare products like black soap and shea butter in his work”
“I had a middle-class upbringing, and I’m drawn to empowered black characters,” he says, while showing filmmaker Matt Black around his New York studio in today’s film.
Johnson was one of the first so-called ‘post-black’ artists, a phrase coined in the late 1990s to refer to a post-Civil Rights Movement generation of African-American creators whose work is not defined solely in terms of race, but who at the same time put race at the heart what they do. For instance Johnson uses African skincare products like black soap and shea butter in his work, and appropriates the cross hairs symbol of political rappers Public Enemy, which he applies to wood with a branding iron.