Rashid Johnson’s 


Island


October 2014


by Susannah Tantemsapya


Rashid Johnson’s Islands is the inaugural exhibition for the newly relocated David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles. This is the artist’s third solo show at the gallery, sprawling throughout its two, large spaces.

The first holds the site-specific, floor-based sculpture Plateaus (2014), which was a built days before the opening in September. Johnson welded together open steel cubes, which once erected, are filled with varied, accumulated objects that in his words “occupy” its skeletal structure. This garden-like “island” is layered with plants, ceramics, concrete, plastic, brass, burned wood, grow lamps, shea butter, CB radios, rugs, and books. Organized in repetitive stacks, several editions of Richard Wright’s novel Native Son, SELLOUT: The Politics of Racial Betrayal by Harvard Professor Randall Kennedy, and the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, incite a growing dialogue with each circumference of Plateaus.

Rashid Johnson. Plateaus. 2014
Steel, lacquered paint, plants, cement, ceramics, plastic, copper, burnt wood, neons, radio equipment, shea butter, books. 579.1 x 457.2 x 457.2 cm
Fondation Louis Vuitton Collection, Paris



Upon entering the second gallery, there’s a combination of wood and shea sculptures. The wood sculptures hang on the walls, adorned with objects such as books, vinyl, plants, black soap, CB radios and of course, blocks of shea butter. The shea sculptures in the middle of the room feel minimal and open, housed in mahogany and glass. In fact, the aroma of shea butter floats throughout the entire exhibition space, providing a visceral connection to time, space and identity.

Throughout his career, Johnson has reflected upon his own identity as an African-American male and his work is often associated as post-black art. The exhibition Islands travels through various historical and pop cultural references, allowing us a glimpse through his own perspective, but also providing a feeling of nostalgia. Although the gallery itself is quite large, there is a welcoming presence, one of being at home in this constructed world that Johnson created.

Rashid Johnson
Photo: Kendall Mills

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