Hauser & Wirth NY Gallery opens the new season with a solo exhibit by Multimedia Artist Rashid Johnson. I have heard buzz around his name but have not seen his work in person until now. Hundreds of people came in and out during the opening reception. Once you get inside, a vast room accompanied by 6 soap and wax paintings on tile surround you. Theses first paintings are very similar but as you continue to look you notice subtle differences. The scale is impressive and the materials are an interesting surprise.
Hundreds of people came in and out during the opening reception.
To me, the work suggested the notion of contained messiness and anxiety based on appearance. The material is soap and wax, relatively clean materials, yet the presentation suggests gross and dirty. An interesting juxtaposition using black soap on white tile in a way that looks like sludge or poop scrawled across the white ceramic tile.
Moving along, we find more color and layering added to the tile and black wax soap. Tropical scenery collaged on the tile made me think of false utopias, a fake paradise, or possibly a tarnished memory of paradise. Very interesting, but not quite enough to fully impress me.
Then something magical happened once I came across a large installation in the back room of the gallery. Piano music echoed through the gallery and got louder as you approached the back room. Music seemed to be permeating from this large sculptural multimedia installation. Handmade ceramic pots held real plants, videos on old tv sets with headphones, critical novels and more decorated a large black metal cage. As I moved around the piece, the aforementioned magic had emerged. A classical Pianist and music producer Antoine Baldwin, also known as Audio BLK, was playing live at the center of the ‘cage’. This was probably my favorite part of the show.
Music seemed to be permeating from this large sculptural multimedia installation.
What I appreciated most about Fly Away, was that his work seemed simple and simultaneously ambitious. If I had to take home a piece of his work it would probably be one of the first tile works, or the work with an upside down figure made of mirror.
What I love most about this mirrored figure is the roughness coupled with the technical skill of crafting the piece. I can see why there might be a little bit of hype around Rashid Johnson, but some things were definitely more impressive than others. What did you think about the show? Which work was most interesting to you? Leave comments, and rate the show with stars bellow.