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  • Provenance

    Massimo de Carlo, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I knew that there was something bubbling inside me that asked more questions and provided more contradictions."
    Rashid Johnson, 2013

    The once prosaic timber floor of Rashid Johnson’s Born by the River, 2011 has been scorched and wounded; using a hot iron to brand the floor with a myriad of simple geometric forms, Johnson chars the surface in hieroglyphics unknown to this world. Symbols—circular, triangular, hollow and solid –are seared into the floor boards in a constellation of wounds that form a brilliant heaven of semiotics. Through his vigorous approach, the present lot emerges as a magnificent cross between cultural investigation and artistic process. The symbols are first marked through the application of black soap. Once outlined, the areas are re-branded into the surface with a hot iron, leaving a permanent scar on its skin. In explaining the series, Johnson reveals “fueled by my interest in abstraction and mark-making as well as my interest in the constructed object….. How do these things become signifiers? What are these things when they no longer function in the way they were originally intended to function?” (Rashid Johnson in C. Stackhouse, “Rashid Johnson,” Art in America Magazine, April 4, 2012)

    Through the use of ordinary floor boards, we are immediately drawn to the familiarity of the surface, grooves, and smell of oak flooring from homes of our past. Typical of aged houses, the floors endure the wear of the generations of residents whose lives unravel upon them. Johnson’s artistic practice of “reuse and improvisation” is illustrated perfectly in Born by the River in its combination of re-used materials and “mark-making.” In explaining this body of work, Johnson reveals “Now I deal with the more formal concerns of abstraction, even in works like the branded wood pieces, which also relate to critical and conceptual notions. Form is where I really started as an artist, before my work became involved with other concerns. I've gone back to issues around how you make decisions as an artist, as well as the materials and tools that you use to make those decisions.” (Rashid Johnson in C. Stackhouse, “Rashid Johnson,” Art in America Magazine, April 4, 2012)

  • Artist Biography

    Rashid Johnson

    American • 1977

    In 2001, Rashid Johnson made his name as the youngest participant in Freestyle, the exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem that put forward some of today’s best-known African American artists. Thelma Golden, who selected Johnson for the groundbreaking exhibition, identified at the core of his practice, “a deep engagement with the history of conceptual art, but also the history of Black people,” with his work always operating “on an emotional level and an intellectual level at once.”

    Johnson’s frequent use of black soap is exemplary of the artist’s narrative embedding of a pointed range of everyday materials and objects, often associated with his childhood and frequently referencing collective aspects of African American intellectual history and cultural identity.

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Born by the River

branded red oak flooring, black soap, wax, paint
72 1/4 x 96 x 2 5/8 in. (183.5 x 243.8 x 6.7 cm)

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $197,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm