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Rashid Johnson
B. 1977, Chicago. Lives and works in New York.

From Erin Dziedzic, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art:

Rashid Johnson’s works inspire slowly unfolding viewer experiences and express personal and complex histories through objects and mark-making, something that was palpable in his 2017 exhibition “Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy” at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Antoine’s Organ (2016), for example, is a massive sculpture with a network of live potted plants, books, lights, videos, Persian rugs, and mounds of shea butter built up around an upright piano at its core. Its open, modernist, gridlike framework provides accessibility, while its contents imply attention, responsibility, and care.
Johnson’s diasporic matrix evokes ideas about time and history. It’s tactile and textural, deeply personal, and profoundly relevant. The work expands a network of elements related to African and African American identity and history, inspiring an opportunity to contemplate the past in the present moment. Johnson’s art inspires slow, measured reflections from the audience. This aspect of his oeuvre has always resonated with me, one of many important forces offered up in his penetrating body of work—which, among other major themes, addresses art history, literature, cultural identities, and materiality.
Glenn Ligon
B. 1960, New York. Lives and works in New York.

From Al Miner, Associate Professor and Founding Director/Chief Curator, Maria & Alberto de la Cruz Art Gallery, Georgetown University:

Glenn Ligon tackles the legacy and endurance of American racism head-on and conveys the murky complexity of African American experience. When Ligon obscures the context of appropriated imagery, as in the darkened background of Grey Hands #2 (currently on view at Georgetown University)—which is from a series of silkscreened paintings depicting the Million Man March—or the legibility of borrowed text, he offers an apt metaphor for what he describes as the “invisibility and simultaneous hypervisibility of black people in America.”
This push-pull is especially evident in his text-based works that feature a delicate balance of prose and politics. To explore a peculiar phrase penned by Gertrude Stein in 1909, “negro sunshine,” Ligon painted the front of a white neon black (Warm Broad Glow, 2005); he also encrusted black oil paint in seductively shimmering coal dust against a white ground to produce his “Study for Negro Sunshine” series.
Ligon has revisited this and other literary quotes in multiple media over the course of his career. Since the late 1990s, he has borrowed text from a 1953 James Baldwin essay, resulting in nearly 200 works to date (the “Stranger” and “Untitled” series). Since 2005, Ligon has created a series of neons that defamiliarize the word “America” by treating it as an object. This sustained engagement affords renewed relevance to singular points of reference as context shifts across time.

African American Art 7.jpg

African American Art 8.jpg

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