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  • Provenance

    Massimo de Carlo, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The generation I grew up with always had this feeling of authorship, of authoring a space, and that included materials that you can call your own and no one else can use without referencing you." - RASHID JOHNSON

    Born in the late 1970s into a Chicago-based family, Rashid Johnson’s early upbringing provided a rich source of experience through which to explore the constructs of identity. The family’s Afrocentric cultural outlook informed much of his childhood; then, when Johnson was thirteen, his parents began to actively withdraw themselves from Afrocentric ideology, choosing to slip into a more conventional middle-class American existence. By his own admission, Johnson found this sudden shift in family values difficult to understand. ‘I was trapped in this space that my parents had created that was no longer relevant. For me, it became the catalyst to investigate – seriously and with humour – an African identity within an American culture.’ Herein lies the genesis of Johnson’s creative output; interspersing his exploration of identity with culturally significant artefacts from his past, the artist’s work forms a dialogue which deliberates notions of race, stereotype and selfhood, animating his work with a continuing narrative associated with the ‘post-black’ movement.

    The present lot, comprised of black soap and wax on panel, appropriates a west African dermatological agent for sensitive skin as a monochromatic surface for the artist’s gestural mark marking. The fluid drips of soap and wax set against the rigid geometric panel background retain a street graffiti-like quality. The purposeful punches of black on the panel wall feel defiant – almost in protest of the inflexible line underneath. Both subversive and enigmatic, New Lines pulls the viewer into the artist’s conversation, conjuring questions of layered meanings within the raw materiality of this striking work.

  • 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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New Lines

mirrored tiles, black soap, wax on panel
184 x 126 cm (72 1/2 x 49 5/8 in.)
Signed 'Rashid Johnson' on the reverse.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £56,250

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+ 44 20 7318 4061

Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 30 June 2015 2pm