Explore the exhibition
Unfolding across the entirety of both the gallery’s London spaces, the exhibition ‘Rashid Johnson. Waves’, open through 23 December 2020, is dedicated exclusively to the works of renowned contemporary American artist Rashid Johnson. The exhibition brings together new paintings and ceramic tile mosaics evolving from Johnson’s recurring themes of anxiety and escapism – subjects of poignant relevance in today’s socio-political climate. Johnson’s work has never ceased to confront the complexity of the human condition and the strenuous spaces we negotiate.
Among these new works is a collection of sculptural paintings in which the canvas is replaced by a mosaic of fractured ceramic glazed by Johnson in his studio, as well as wood, brass, oyster shell, spray paint and mirrored tiles. These constitute a continuation of Johnson’s Broken Men and Broken Crowd series. Between all the fragments contained in the works, a lyrical connectivity is at play, binding together these decade-spanning series.
Within these bustling compositions of cracked colour and line, rudimentary renderings of human figures come to the forefront. These wild and agitated faces evolved from Johnson’s Anxious Men series; wherein anonymous, abstracted faces are rendered in black wax on a grid of white tiles. With these new, ever-complex mosaics, the artist pushes the anxiety of the figures, both metaphorically and physically, to breaking point. Whether grouped or solitary, these ‘broken men’ speak to the collective and individual identities in the midst of shifting social realities.
Johnson updates the visual language of his long-established Anxious Men in new works as part of his Anxious Red Paintings series, which began as drawings made during and in reaction to the global lockdown, leading Johnson to produce expansive oil paintings. Using oil on linen and a blood red medium for the first time to depict the deceptively crude archetypal faces, Johnson has captured the ‘life and death’ urgency that has separated and connected communities around the globe. This red pigment, entitled Anxious Red, was created specially by Johnson for these paintings.
About the artist
Johnson’s multidisciplinary practice spans sculpture, painting, drawing, filmmaking, and installation, incorporating a diverse range of materials and objects, significant in their engagement with African-American and other African diasporic communities. His work explores themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, literature, philosophy, materiality and critical history.