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Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago opens Rashid Johnson. Message to Our Folks

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, presents Rashid Johnson. Message to Our Folks, on view Apr 14–Aug 5, 2012, New York-based artist Rashid Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition, surveying the first ten years of his career.

Rashid Johnson Death by Black Hole “The Crisis”, 2010 Steel, black soap, wax, books, shea butter, plant, space rocks, mirror, gold paint, stained wood 96 1/2 x 76 1/4 x 30 in. (245.11 x 193.675 x 76.2 cm) Courtesy Gagosian Gallery Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Incorporating commonplace objects from his childhood and using what he calls a process of “hijacking the domestic,” Johnson transforms materials such as wood, mirrors, tiles, shea butter, Persian rugs, CB radios, and plants into conceptually loaded and visually compelling sculptures. Through his work, Johnson defines a new paradigm for representation that is steeped in individual experience while also engaging in a conversation about shared cultural references. He offers his own multifaceted, sincere, and humorous life story, challenging traditional ways of thinking about black identity and the plurality of black experience and honoring creative and intellectual figures who are integral to American history, music, and culture.

Through the viewer’s own free association with the familiar objects incorporated into Johnson’s work, the exhibition opens up a dialogue with historically important figures ranging from W. E. B. Du Bois and Sun Ra to Miles Davis and Public Enemy. The title of the exhibition is taken from a 1969 album by avant-garde musicians Art Ensemble of Chicago, who performed with a variety of percussive found objects, spanning musical styles to radically redefine the rules of jazz. Inspired by their message, Johnson pays homage to these creative pioneers of his hometown and channels their nonconformist vision for his generation of artists.

This exhibition is curated by MCA Pamela Alper Associate Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm in close collaboration with Rashid Johnson. A fully illustrated catalogue, the most comprehensive documentation of Johnson’s work to date, accompanies the exhibition.

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