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  • Provenance

    David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, David Kordansky Gallery, Other Aspects, 30 October 2009 — 16 January 2010
    London, Modern Collections, AMERICAS, 11 September – 8 November 2012

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Some people have this expectation that black artists have an obligation to speak to more of the negative aspects of our history. I don’t want to live someone else’s history, necessarily; I can only live and suggest my own experiences, and a lot of what my work deals with are my own experiences.” RASHID JOHNSON

    Skillfully incorporating commonplace objects from his childhood, Sun Goddess, 2009, is testament to Rashid Johnson’s desire to both confront ingrained ways of thinking about black experience, and accentuate its plurality. He transforms ordinary materials such as shea butter, wax, and record albums into conceptually and visually stimulating works of art, exploiting these resources precisely for their myriad of cultural signifiers and metaphorical representations. The present lot is characteristic of this practice– a process which the artist describes as “hijacking the domestic”– as it successfully epitomises Johnson’s exploration of the physicality of his materials in order to investigate the complexities and contradictions that comprise black identity. Though drawn upon from the artist’s own individual experience, the piece simultaneously evokes shared references that are significant to the mass of African-American culture – the use of shea butter, for example, derived from the African Shea tree, hints at the lapsed Afro-centrism of his parents, which in doing so, humorously questions the concept of applying “Africanism” to one’s body.

    Exemplifying Johnson’s deep interest in redefining intricate notions of blackness, Sun Goddess is a complicated visual composition of the beliefs and motifs that shape the artist’s personal relationship to a larger collective memory. He combines images of alchemy and divination that are synonymous with African American history, employing these materials in a way that suggests an indefinite form of mysticism and a role as devotional objects. Assuming a role akin to that of an Afro-futurist storyteller, Johnson envisions the future of blackness by reimagining its history – an approach which informs the entire creative process of his oeuvre, and establishes his work as central to the “post-black” movement. As a post-black artist, Johnson attempts to both undermine the importance of race and represent the black experience in pieces such as Sun Goddess, making use of references to black culture as a way to explore how social norms are created and deconstructed. Indeed, despite the largely conceptual nature of Johnson’s aesthetic, the authentic autobiographical perspective that he asserts in the present lot is provocative, urging the viewer to join the artist on his metaphysical journey as he contemplates the creation of the universe, art, and the self.

  • 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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Sun Goddess

black soap, wax, gold paint, rocks, VHS casettes, shea butter, LP sleeve
246.4 x 309.9 x 17.8 cm. (97 x 122 x 7 in.)
Signed 'Rashid Johnson' on the reverse of panels 1 and 3.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £122,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013