WHAT: Rashid Johnson’s “RUMBLE”
WHEN: January 11 – February 25, Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
WHERE: Hauser & Wirth New York, 32 East 69th Street, New York
WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: Artist Rashid Johnson melds together references to Don King, “Black Yoga,” and African American fraternities in his first solo exhibition with Hauser & Wirth New York, opening next week. The two floors of Hauser & Wirth New York are more cozy and domestic than other exhibition spaces in the city — that's becuase they were transformed from a former Upper East Side townhouse, which used to belong to the famed boxing promoter Don King. The history of the space was the catalyst for this show, inspiring Johnson to make work relating to King and the time in history he inhabited.
Pieces like “The Awakening” (2011) and “Glass Jaw” (2011) contain a sleek minimalist design of sectional interior living space, appropriate for the intimate gallery setting. The walled mirror fixtures are combinations of personally significant and culturally poignant found objects and customized geometric shrines, intended literally to place on a pedestal the myth of collective black identity. A video piece charting the hybrid experience of the artist learning yoga in Germany is also featured, as well as the seductive wooden work, “The Sweet Science,” branded with charred icons including that of the African-American fraternal society known as "the Boulé" — which boasts recognizable members of political clout and elite status, possibly even President Obama himself.
Johnson’s exhibition plays with notions of cultish popularity, mixed with a witchy aesthetic, setting itself apart as a body of work that explores identity issues without being too in your face about it. While his work has been tagged with the term “post-black” in the past, Johnson’s installations focus on the differences between individual and collective identity. His method of precise formal execution makes his approach unique and powerful.