Rashid Johnson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "My work has always had concerns around race, struggle, grief and grievance, but also joy and excitement around the tradition and opportunities of Blackness."
    —Rashid Johnson
    Executed in 2017, Rashid Johnson’s Untitled Anxious Collage is a striking example of the artist’s acclaimed practice that examines themes of identity, anxiety, and escape. Here, four monumental faces, composed of Johnson’s signature use of black soap and wax, are rendered with a gestural energy that counters the tropical idyll of the background. Scraping and smearing, scribbling and slashing, the artist at once conjures the art brut aesthetic of Jean Dubuffet, the charged portraits of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the immediacy of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings in Untitled Anxious Collage—expanding on the painterly vocabulary of his predecessors into a unique vernacular entirely his own.

     

    [left] Jean Dubuffet, D’Hôtel Shaded with Apricot (D’Hötel Nuancé d’Abricot), 1947. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris [right] Jackson Pollock, Number 3, Tiger, 1949. Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Artwork: © 2022 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [left] Jean Dubuffet, D’Hôtel Shaded with Apricot (D’Hötel Nuancé d’Abricot), 1947. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    [right] Jackson Pollock, Number 3, Tiger, 1949. Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Artwork: © 2022 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "While making those scrawled faces and seeing myself reflected in them, I saw them as incredibly anxious characters.  The idea of anxiety and the idea of a world that’s not giving us as many answers as we have questions is something that I’m definitely negotiating in this body of work."
    —Rashid Johnson
    Emerging from the artist’s seminal Anxious Men series which debuted at the Drawing Center, New York in 2015, the present work is distinguished by its vinyl backdrop of palm tree imagery, a departure from the tile support standard to this extensive body of work. In 2016, these single-figure portraits proliferated into images of crowds that the artist termed Anxious Audiences in reaction to the heightening political and racial tensions. The artist’s trademark combination of black soap and wax—linked to homeopathic traditions in African Diasporic cultures—promotes gestural mark-making and necessitates a temporal urgency that is mirrored in the expressions of his subjects. “[It] is very much about the anxiety of movement…You’re dealing with a material that has to be negotiated in a short period of time,” the artist explained.i “It has evolved into an honest negotiation and appreciation of these materials and how they affect the poetry of my story.”ii

     

    David Hammons’ Higher Goals installed in Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn, 1986. Image: Pinkney Herbert and Jennifer Secor, Courtesy of the Public Art Fund
    David Hammons’ Higher Goals installed in Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn, 1986. Image: Pinkney Herbert and Jennifer Secor, Courtesy of the Public Art Fund, Artwork: © David Hammons

    "I remember thinking that if you could actually live in a place with palm trees, if you could get away from the city and the cold, that meant you’d definitely made it."
    —Rashid Johnson
    In Untitled Anxious Collage, the apprehensive faces are set against imagery of palm trees, which for Johnson symbolizes daydreams of triumph and manhood. By incorporating the tropical vinyl wallpaper, the present work materializes the dynamic tension between gesture and stillness, frenzy and tranquility, and presages Johnson’s employment of palm tree imagery in his later Escape Collages conceived in 2016. “Escapism is something that was an underlying condition of what was happening in my work,” the artist expressed. “I really wanted to create a body of work that spoke to the agency of the black character. In order to do that, I started to produce more of an escapist strategy in the way that the work was coming to life.”iii In Untitled Anxious Collage, the palm trees at once recall the aspirational spirit of Higher Goals by David Hammons—who is a noted influence on Johnson’s practice—and evoke a sense of nostalgia or yearning with their sepia coloration. As elements of the background emerge through the gaping eyes and mouths, the idea of escapism appears to pervade the minds of the rendered figures, yet the implications of Johnson’s “escapist strategy” are ultimately enriching. “There’s often a negative connotation to the word ‘escapism,’ as if you’re not dealing with the realities of our times,” in the artist’s words. “But I see it as very optimistic. And I think that kind of optimism becomes infectious.”iv

     

    i Rashid Johnson, quoted in Dylan Kerr, “My Body of Art – Rashid Johnson on the hidden depths in Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five,” Phaidon, 2015, online.
    ii Sebastian Smee, “A Vital Voice of His Generation: Rashid Johnson is Blowing Open the Idea of Africanness,” The Washington Post, July 3, 2019, online.
    iii Dan Weiskopf, “At Home in Abstraction: Interview with Rashid Johnson,” Burnaway Magazine, June 20, 2013, online.
    iv Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles
      Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 2018)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from a Distinguished Contemporary Collection

31

Untitled Anxious Collage

black soap, wax and vinyl on panel, in artist’s frame
73 1/4 x 50 1/2 in. (186.1 x 128.3 cm)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Associate Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
[email protected]

 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022