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.