Quotes by: Rashid Johnson
Rashid Johnson at the Rubell Family Collection in December 2008
||Columbia College Chicago
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
||Painting, Photography, Film and Sculpture
||Chicago, Illinois U.S.
I started rereading 'The Dutchman' - I kind of just pulled it off the shelf.
When I was young, I remember feeling a real thirst for opportunities around the arts, for learning about how artists function and how institutions work.
As an undergrad at Columbia College in Chicago, I came across 'Boondocks,' and then I watched the 'Boondocks' television show.
My composition often goes toward the black middle class or the black super-wealthy or strong historical black figures.
The whole ability to look at the complexity of race and any sort of associated -ism and still find humor, that's a very interesting space.
The way that light hits objects in life, three-dimensional objects before you photograph them, is really the story of photography.
I wanted my art to deal with very formal concerns and to deal with very material concerns, and to deal with antecedents and art history, which for me go very far beyond just the influence of African-American artists.
My mother introduced me to more academic-minded writers, Cornel West and Skip Gates. In her library, I came across, when I was very young, Harold Cruse's 'The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,' which is like a bible of Negro intellectuals from Frederick Douglass to Amiri Baraka.
When I was younger, I remember there was a really famous book, and it was called 'The People Could Fly.' And so this idea of, kind of like, black characters kind of jumping into space and kind of the challenge that they presented to gravity I thought was really interesting.
Race, class, childhood experience, the books I found on my mother's bookshelf, the albums I found in my father's basement - these things are all part of who I am and will always be a part of my work.
My father ran a CB radio business. I grew up in a cluttered space that was filled with radios and antennas. It felt alien.
My father owned a small company, called Gundel Electronics, where he did community band radio and some repair stuff.
I've always had an interest in complicating the way that we perceive the black character, whether it's the black academic or scholar or activist or black intellectual.
I say that I suffer from what Rosalind Krauss was calling the post-medium condition, where an artist essentially employs several mediums in order to bring to life whatever specific ideas that they have. For me it's always been that way.
I have an investment in the signifying aspects of the material as well as an understanding of antecedent bodies of work. That informs the way I make marks and make decisions.
Growing up in Chicago, there was a very particular type of home that would display the black Jesus figure. It wasn't a radical home. You wouldn't find these in a Black Panther house. There's still a strong allegiance to Christianity.
For me, all the materials and objects I employ come from a specific space that's very personal.
I can bring in all these different components, and I marry these components, and I let them get traversed by the viewer, who reorganizes them.
You can really learn a lot from young people and the way they view the world.
I've always been interested in this idea of a privileged life, probably because it's something I hadn't seen much of.
When I was younger, I would see shea butter being sold on the street, and I was interested how people were still coating themselves in the theater of Africanism. You see that in dashikis and hairstyles and music.
I'd begun to collect things that were lying in piles on the floor of my studio. I had run out of space, and I started to build shelves. I turned around one day and realized that that was the vehicle for carrying so many of the things that I was looking at and talking about, so they went from the walls to the works.
I was born in Evanston, about three blocks away from the Chicago border. My mother, at the time, was finishing her Ph.D. in African History at Northwestern University. Soon after my birth, my parents split, and my father moved to Wicker Park, which is on the north side of the city.