Rashid Johnson is a multimedia artist who addresses subjects such as art history, cultural identity, literature and philosophy in his work. After studying photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, his practice soon embraced other disciplines, such as sculpture, drawing, painting, video and performance art.
Johnson was born in Chicago to a father who owned an electronics shop and a mother with a doctorate in African History from Northwestern University. As the artist himself says: “I grew up between my father’s lab and my mother’s library.”1
His work incorporates objects from everyday life associated, in many cases, with his childhood – such as books he saw in his mother’s library or amateur radio sets like those his father sold – and with references to aspects of the history and identity of the African American community, such as shea butter or black soap, for example. It also includes other varied items such as ceramic pieces, plants, mirrors and rugs.
Rashid Johnson was one of the six artists chosen in 2022 by the Queens Museum and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to create a permanent installation for the new Delta Air Lines terminal at LaGuardia airport in Queens, New York. In 2021, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned Johnson to create large-scale artworks for its opera house, and a major outdoor sculpture by him was installed at the Storm King Art Center in New York.
Johnson has had solo exhibitions at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City (2019), Aspen Art Museum in Colorado (2019), Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, travelling to the Milwaukee Art Museum (2017), the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2016) and the Drawing Center in New York (2015). His most notable collective shows include Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, at the New Museum in New York (2021), The Stomach and the Port, in the Liverpool Biennial (2021), Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, at MoMA in New York (2014) and ILLUMInazioni – ILLUMInations, in the International Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011).
His work is to be found in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Guggenheim in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His first feature film, an adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son, was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and on HBO in 2019. Johnson lives and works in New York.