Rashid Johnson - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | Phillips

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  • “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
    Anxious Crowd radiates frantic energy as 56 bulging eyes glare directly out at us. Built from vigorous scrawls of black lines, a cluster of rectangular faces are formulated in a 7x4 grid, restlessly vibrating as if seeking to escape their confines. Blocks of linear strokes beneath their eyes signal clenched teeth, and the intensity of the black conveys the forceful nature of its application. The grid of faces emit an intense energy of collective uncertainty, visually displaying the anxieties felt by many in the context of today’s society. 


    In 2001, Johnson gained recognition as the youngest artist to be included in Thelma Gordon’s seminal exhibition, Freestyle, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The exhibition introduced the concept of post-black, showcasing artists who rejected being reductively labelled solely 'black' artists. Instead, they demonstrated how their work redefined and engaged deeply with complex notions of blackness. Since then, Johnson has continued to shape his artistic narrative, consistently creating work that explores the multifaceted themes of the black experience in contemporary society. 

    “Anxiety is part of my life. It’s something that people of colour don’t really discuss as often as we should. It’s part of my being and how I relate to the world, and being honest with that struggle has been rewarding for me. It has led to the kind of self-exploration that produces fertile ground for my output as an artist.”
    —Rashid Johnson 

    Anxious Crowd addresses this theme head on, with the sea of anonymous faces drawing on elements of African American experience. The artwork compiles individual portraits from the Anxious Men series, a collection conceived in response to the persistent issue of police shootings targeting unarmed black men and the divisive social tensions surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Introducing an additional layer of depth, the profiles serve as a manifestation of the artist's personal concerns related to fatherhood. Following the birth of his son, Johnson grappled with the realisation that his responsibility extended beyond his own experiences and worries. He now bore the duty of caring for and safeguarding his family in the face of the challenges endured by many people of colour. The creation of these faces provided Johnson with a cathartic release for these emotions, and their subsequent exhibition offered the artist reassurance that he shared these sentiments with others.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the publisher by the present owner

    • Literature

      ars publicata, Rashid Johnson Editions, 2018.03


Untitled (Anxious Crowd)

Soft-ground etching, on Somerset Velvet paper, the full sheet.
S. 50.5 x 60.9 cm (19 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Signed, dated and annotated 'B.A.T.' in pencil on the reverse (the bon-a-tirer copy, the edition was 35 and 9 artist's proofs), published by Hauser & Wirth, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £19,050

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+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 17 - 18 January 2024