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Rashid Johnson



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Rashid Johnson’s artistic practice is characterized by an examination of both the construction of identity—specifically his own identity as a middle-class African American man—and the history of painterly abstraction. To make Express Johnson branded flooring boards using custom-made branding irons that replicate the crosshairs of a gun sight, palm trees, and the crosshairs of a gun sight. Images of crosshairs appear repeatedly in his work, a nod to pioneering rap group Public Enemy, which used the symbol on its albums and merchandise as a reference to unfair targeting of black Americans. The act of branding the wood panels additionally carries with it connotations stemming from its connection to slavery. Splatters of wax mixed with black soap and gouges in the surface of the wood contribute multiple layers that reflect Johnson’s ongoing dialogue with modernist abstraction. At the same time his choice of mateirals evokes the Afrocentric environment of his childhood, suggesting that his work be read through a lens of African American history and culture. [Permanent collection label, 2020]

  • Artist Rashid Johnson (American, b. 1977)
  • Title Express
  • Date 2013
  • Medium Black soap and wax on branded red oak flooring
  • Dimensions framed | 72 1/2 x 48 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Parsons Fund and Bixby Fund, 2013
  • Object number WU 2013.0010
  • Currently on View Teaching Gallery until July 22, 2024

Tragic Depictions: Negative Emotions in the Visual Arts
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/17/2024 - 07/22/2024 Teaching Gallery

11/11/2013 (Art Collection Committee approval)
David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles, CA)

Inscription Unsigned

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