July 12th – August 25th
James Harris Gallery is pleased to present Dark Matters, a new body of work by Rashid Johnson. Through a diverse range of media – photography, painting, sculpture, and video – Johnson brings forward a complex dialog imbedded in contemporary culture.
The title of the show, Dark Matters, reflects Johnson’s propensity to unpeel cultured layers of race, identity and sexuality. Evoking both the title of Cornell West’s prominent book Race Matters and borrowing from the language of physics and astronomy, Johnson draws both visual and conceptual parallels between the two. With the insertion of the physicist’s concept of dark matter into discourse on race, Johnson hopes to point out how societal norms and expectations are impalpably created and disseminated within the dominant frame of cultural production.
Under the banner of this title, the individual works create a multifaceted exploration of these issues. A tightly cropped but large-scale portrait of a famous African-American physicist hangs opposite to a photograph of an anonymous nude white woman. Both photographs connect contemporary issues of identity with dominant art historical conventions, namely portraiture and the female nude. In addition to these two images, Johnson has constructed several pieces that literally reflect the image of the viewer, rendering his/her identity as an integral part of the show. Across one of these mirrored works Johnson has written the words “dark matter.” This conceptual and discursive unpeeling of contemporary identity permeates all of the work. As we confront our own image, unseen dimensions of our own layered identities are brought to fore.
Rashid Johnson is currently at work on solo projects for the 404 arte contemporanea in Naples, Italy, and for the moniquemeloche gallery in Chicago. His work is included in collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago.