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

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • “Fear is a stabilizer and anxiety is an alert system… there’s so many things happening today that my spidey sense goes off, and that’s my anxiety, and I’m happy to have it.”
    — Rashid Johnson

    In a frenzied mass of heavily worked crimson lines, sixteen faces glare directly out of Rashid Johnson’s Untitled (Large Anxious Red). With two bulging eyes and a mouth formed by chaotic jagged lines, the faces collectively exude a frantic dynamism. Shocked, scared, anguished – their eyes rive with emotion, whilst their rectangular mouths are almost expressionless, suggesting a mouth taped over. They vibrate with angst and jostle against each other, as if resisting the semblance of order created by their 4x4 grid formation. Untitled (Large Anxious Red) is part of a wider body of work that encapsulates the anxiety, frustration and fear felt by so many in today’s society – a feeling that was further heightened during the isolation and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. This emotional intensity is embodied in the grimacing faces, foregrounding the seething collective energy brought on by the halting of normality.



    The recurring motif of the anxious faces began with his series Anxious Men, which was first shown at the Drawing Center, New York City, in 2015. Entirely in black and white, the series began with singular portraits of block-like gnarling faces. However, over the course of the 2016 presidential election, they grew and multiplied to form large-scale grid compositions. Describing this rigid formation, which would later return in Untitled (Large Anxious Red), the New York Times critic Roberta Smith wrote how “the frazzled faces are stacked like pictures in a yearbook, or perhaps men in a cellblock. They bring to mind the work of Basquiat, Dubuffet and Gary Simmons, but mainly they surround us with an arena filled with angry or fearful spectators.” Johnson recalled that the series responded to the ongoing police shootings of unarmed black men and the divisive social tensions surrounding the presidential election at the time. Creating the portraits served as a cathartic means to delve into his fears, the artist explained. After showcasing them, Johnson felt a sense of relief upon knowing he was not alone.


    Cy Twombly, Untitled, 2005. Artwork: © Cy Twombly Foundation

    The significant shift from the pre-pandemic works to later compositions such as Untitled (Large Anxious Red) lies in the deliberate adoption of the colour red. Johnson crafted a new shade, aptly named Anxious Red and also referred to by the artist as “alarm red” and “urgent red.” This hue embodies a confrontational, unavoidable intensity that evokes feelings of emergency and fear. The deliberate choice of red serves as a symbolic representation of the sense of danger and urgency brought about by the pandemic. Paradoxically, Johnson’s use of red as substitution for black, simultaneously evokes passion, love and, therefore, hope for the future. For this reason, there is a level of ambiguity to the intricate patterns of the deeply expressive red marks, in a manner poignantly reminiscent of Cy Twombly's monumental, calligraphic canvases.

    “[The work is] an opportunity to admit something that many of us aren’t so proud of necessarily, and through admitting it…makes me feel less alone”iety, and I’m happy to have it.”
    — Rashid Johnson
    Looking ahead, searching for the potential positive outcomes of the global catastrophe, Johnson hosted the Red Stage in the summer of 2021. A platform entirely painted in Johnson’s Anxious Red was installed at the historic plaza of Astor Place in New York City. Taking inspiration from traditional speaker’s corners, the project was a public invitation for the public to perform, experiment and create following the year of lockdown: “For activation and occupation by you – the artist, activist, rabble-rouser, teacher, student, dreamer, neighbour and bystander!” Centred on the question of “what new ways of togetherness are born from times of crisis?”, this forward-looking initiative built on the anxiety explored in Johnson's previous works, embracing those feelings and envisioning a positive future.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the publisher by the present owner at the time of publication

    • Literature

      ars publicata, Rashid Johnson Editions, 2021.04


Untitled Large Anxious Red

Screenprint in colours, with hand-applied pigment, on wove paper, the full sheet.
S. 122.2 x 91.5 cm (48 1/8 x 36 in.)
Signed and numbered 44/51 in pencil (there were also 15 artist's proofs), published by Brand X Editions, New York (with their inkstamp on the reverse), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £44,450

Contact Specialist

Because of technical difficulties our sale is delayed. We should resume soon. Sorry for the inconvenience.


+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