Hauser & Wirth , New York, United States
From: 11 January 2012
Until: 25 February 2012
Rashid Johnson, 'RUMBLE'
Tuesday – Saturday
10 am until 6 pm
RUMBLE, the name of Chicago-artist Rashid Johnson’s upcoming show, opening at Hauser & Wirth New York, takes its name from the legendary 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in the former Zaire.
The fight was orchestrated by the flamboyant African-American prizefight promoter Don King. When Johnson discovered that King used to live in the converted apartment of 32 East 69th Street, which now serves as Hauser & Wirth’s New York exhibition space, he was inspired to create a work relating to the legendary boxing promoter and his place in history. Johnson's artwork incorporates film, painting, sculpture and installation and uses materials as diverse as CB radios and VHS tapes, to live plants, wax and shea butter.
At a time in America when black people were reclaiming their relationship to Africa, Don King was waving flags and gleefully declaring himself “the living attestation of the American dream, the extolment of this great nation”, Johnson says: “He was the archetype of a new Negro patriot, which was an unthinkable concept for just about every black person in America at the time.”
For his first show at Hauser & Wirth (a precursor to a major exhibition taking place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in April 2012) Rashid looks at the extreme and contradictory cultural ideas and symbols that emerged during the 1970s and explored what he calls the “space in-between”. In Johnson’s own words: “One moment, everyone was wearing dashikis and looking for their African roots. Suddenly they all stopped and they were listening to hip-hop and watching shows on the Black Entertainment Network. I’m interested in exploring that sort of seismic change, looking into the space between things that came before and after.”
The show's curator, Thelma Golden, has characterised Johnson’s work as ‘post-black’, referring to artists who, in Golden’s own words, “are adamant about not being labelled as ‘black’ artists, though their work is steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.”
As well as a short film entitled 'The New Black Yoga', RUMBLE will also include a monumental hanging sculpture made of mirrored tiles the geometric arrangement of which is disrupted by cracks and scratches on the glass surface. At the rear of the gallery will be a fragrant burned red oak floor, through which the artist is drawing the viewer's attention to an area of the exhibition space that would normally go unnoticed.