I want 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.

American artist Rashid Jonhson works in sculpture and photography, frequently incorporating objects from everyday life, with strong cultural references, such as shea butter, soap, wax or VHS cassettes. Johnson's work examines racial identity in the context of conceptual African-American art, with humour and pathos.


The way that light hits objects, I think, is one of the more important things that sculpture and photography share.

Rashid Johnson is working across the disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, and video, Johnson explores his personal past and identity within the larger context of African American intellectual and creative history.

He is perhaps best known for his shelf-like constructions, which were inspired by Conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner’s description of a table as “something to put something on” in his 2007 book of the same title. Johnson has translated this idea into wall pieces that support items from the artist’s life, including books by sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Parliament and Al Green record covers, African shea butter, CB radios, and houseplants. These works use appropriated objects to emphasize the embedded narratives that transform a physical object into a visual symbol. Johnson’s work articulates the challenge of distinguishing an independent personal history amid the strength of a collective social history such as that of African Americans.

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