With the online exhibition ‘Untitled Anxious Red Drawings,’ American artist Rashid Johnson introduces a selection of new works made since the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic. Using oil stick on cotton rag paper, the artist has here updated the visual language of his long-established ‘Anxious Men’ series, in which deceptively crude archetypal faces express the fundamental tensions and traumas that course through contemporary life.
Johnson’s ‘Anxious Men’ series has been characterized by faces scratched into the pictorial surface in a kind of drawing through erasure, where his new Anxious Red Drawings employ only the direct application of intense color. The repeated motif in his new works suggest both the ongoing context of global instability and our new reality.
Rashid Johnson is among an influential cadre of contemporary American artists whose work employs a wide range of media to explore themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, literature, philosophy, materiality, and critical history. Johnson’s work is known for its narrative embedding of a pointed range of everyday materials and objects, often associated with his childhood and frequently referencing collective aspects of African American intellectual history and cultural identity.
Streaming Recommended watch list: Law and Order, Bamboozled, Taxi Driver, Watermelon Man by Melvin Van Peebles, Native Son, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Reading Recommended reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Eating Rashid Johnson’s Baby Back Ribs: The artist shares a favorite recipe, as home cooking provides us with community, self-care and nourishment
Download Customize your Zoom background with a work from Rashid Johnson’s ‘Untitled Anxious Red Drawings’ series. Click here to download
Listening A playlist created by Rashid Johnson during his time at home
Rashid JohnsonUntitled Anxious Red Drawings
Johnson’s frenetically drawn, iconic faces confront the viewer with a visceral immediacy. At a time when the world has come to a standstill, Johnson reflects on the solitary nature of his practice and the autonomy that comes with drawing, he describes social distance as deeply complicated yet familiar as he is used to working alone. In this respect, he says, ‘it has not changed much for my drawings, but it has changed my thinking’.
Rashid Johnson will donate 10% of his proceeds of the sale of works from this exhibition to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, matching Hauser & Wirth’s commitment to support the Fund through donation of 10% of its gross profits from all online exhibitions, as part of the gallery’s ongoing #artforbetter initiative.
Images from Rashid Johnson’s studio in Long Island, New York’; All images: © Rashid Johnson