Rashid Johnson - Shaping the Surface: Online Auction London Wednesday, May 13, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Description

    Please note this lot is the property of a private individual.

  • Provenance

    Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Galerie Guido W. Baudach, There are Stranger Villages, 7 September - 23 December 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    'I've always dealt with themes that have touched on politics, place, identity, who and how we are.' - Rashid Johnson

    Rashid Johnson’s practice examines African American identity and presents these findings in object form. Incorporating a wide range of media, the artist’s oeuvre touches on and brings together personal and historical observations as well as references to the occult and the mystic. The present work, Run, from 2010 was exhibited at Johnson’s first solo exhibition, There are Stranger Villages at Guido W. Baudach, Berlin, in the same year as the work’s creation. The title of the exhibition refers to an essay written in 1955 by American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin, which discusses the experience of Baldwin being the first Black person to visit a small swiss village. Totemic in structure, Run is one of several alter-like pieces from this exhibition, which incorporates found objects with gold spray-painted phrases and symbols. A single word – Run - is hand-sprayed above the stencilled crosshairs, acting as shimmering symbols which refer to the fear and danger experienced by marginalized communities living in a racially prejudiced society.

    At the base of the mirror, Johnson places a small woven carpet topped with three spherical balls of shea butter flanked by two small houseplants. The plants provide a calming introduction of colour and symmetry against the formed waxy spheres. Johnson wrote ‘When I was younger, I would see shea butter being sold on the street, and I was interested in how people were still coating themselves in the theater of Africanism’. The artist’s use of shea butter and black soap in his work is an academic, yet personal nod to African American culture. Johnson’s mother, an African history professor would keep these materials around the house in reference to her study. Johnson came to the conclusion that they ‘were a way to culturize oneself in Africanness as you’re exploring or looking for an identity, especially in a country that has had such a complicated history with the people. Because of the lack of information that most Americans have about their ancestry they try to build their own histories, build a narrative or bridge to that African experience. There’s an absurdity to it, but it’s also really poetic’ (R. Johnson, quoted in P. Laster, “An interview with Rashid Johnson: ‘I was more African before going to Africa,’” Conceptual Fine Arts, October 26, 2016).



titled 'RUN' upper centre
mirror, spray paint, shea butter, carpet and plants
160 x 90 x 45 cm (63 x 35 3/8 x 17 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2010.

£25,000 - 35,000 

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs

Head of Sale, London

+44 20 7901 7993


Shaping the Surface: Online Auction

Online Auction 13 - 21 May 2020