The High Museum of Art will present the exhibition Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks surveying the first 14 years of the Chicago-born artist’s career. The exhibition opens June 8 and will continue through Sept. 8, 2013.

With dozens of works in a range of media – including painting, photography, video and sculpture – Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition comes to the High from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, where it debuted from April to August 2012 and hosted more than 95,900 visitors. The exhibition explores the artist’s own personal and cultural history, while humorously sharing a metaphysical journey as he contemplates the creation of the universe, art and the self.

In many of Johnson’s pieces, he references musicians and cultural icons including jazz legend Miles Davis, rap group Public Enemy and experimental artist Sun Ra, writings by Civil Rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, and symbols of the African-American intellectual fraternity Sigma Pi Phi as a method to understand his own role as an artist. By bringing attention to individuality, Johnson attempts to deconstruct false notions of a monolithic Black American identity. The title “Message to Our Folks” is borrowed from an Art Ensemble of Chicago album from 1969.

Through a process he named “hijacking the domestic,” Johnson transforms everyday objects from his childhood – such as books, shea butter, black soap, CB radios, record albums and food – into works that challenge thinking about the Black American experience. With a practice grounded in modern and contemporary art, Johnson’s work gives voice to an Afro-futurist narrative that combines history, science fiction, magical realism and non-Western theories on the origins of the universe to explore the shifting nature of identity and the individual’s role in that shift.

The exhibition is organized by Julie Rodrigues Widholm, the Pamela J. Alper associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and managed in Atlanta by Lily Siegel, the High’s assistant curator of modern and contemporary art. A fully-illustrated catalog was published for the exhibition.

The High Museum, as we’ve stated many times before, keeps a very diverse rotation of artwork visiting its halls throughout the year. We can’t wait for this one so make sure to mark your calendars.


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