May 23, 2014 - The George Economou Collection - Rashid Johnson
May 23, 2014

Rashid Johnson

Rashid Johnson, The New Black Yoga (still), 2011. 16mm film transferred to DVD with sound, 10:57 minutes. © Rashid Johnson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Rashid Johnson
Magic Numbers

June 23–August 28, 2014

Opening: June 20, 7–9:30pm

The George Economou Collection
80 Kifissias Avenue
15125, Marousi, Athens

T +30 2108090595

The George Economou Collection is pleased to announce Magic Numbers, a solo exhibition by American artist Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago), opening in Athens on June 20. Curated by the artist in collaboration with Katherine Brinson, associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum New York, and Skarlet Smatana, director of the Economou Collection, the exhibition features a site-specific installation of works largely conceived on the occasion of the exhibition.

Since coming to prominence in the early 2000s, Johnson has forged a nuanced and diverse body of work that explores the complex contemporary and historical forces that shape identity. His paintings, photographs, videos, and sculptures draw on a shifting corpus of references spanning music, literature, intellectual history, and pop culture, interwoven with dense autobiographical valences. His installations often take the form of wall-mounted shelves that suspend together found objects such as books, vinyl records, CB radios, plants, and oyster shells, imbuing them with a new, talismanic significance. In recent years, Johnson has also increasingly worked in a purely abstract vein, mining the legacy of modernist abstraction while exploiting the unique expressive potential of his vocabulary of unconventional materials. 

Magic Numbers takes as its starting point a film by Johnson in the George Economou Collection, The New Black Yoga (2011). This emblematic work grounds a group of new paintings and sculptures that advance a number of longstanding formal and conceptual impulses in the artist’s oeuvre. In the first gallery, a wall of mirror tiles will form the backdrop to a configuration of objects charged with intensely personal symbolism as well as broader cultural inflections. In relationship to this monumental work, Johnson has drawn on the forms of Brazilian modernist furniture to create an enigmatic vessel for one of his most resonant materials, shea butter—the unctuous fat derived from a nut indigenous to Africa that is prized for its healing emollient properties.

At the heart of the exhibition will be a gallery devoted to The New Black Yoga, a short film that depicts a group of five young African-American men in a sublime natural setting performing a series of choreographed movements that are in turn balletic, athletic, and martial. Originating in the artist’s absurd experience of attempting to participate in a yoga class conducted in a foreign language, the work broadens into a disorientating collision of codes and signifiers, playing on Johnson’s pervasive interest in constructing fictive fraternal collectives and ambiguous rituals. The video begins and ends with the image of a crosshairs target—a symbol appropriated from the logo of hip-hop group Public Enemy, which here takes on a more oblique, runic connotation. 

The crosshairs icon will resurface in the final gallery, where Johnson’s sculpture Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos (2012) functions as both a stark portent of aggression and a serene study in geometric forms. It will be installed with a group of abstract compositions that deploy burned wood, cast bronze, black soap and wax to forge surging topographies interrupted by the artist’s additive and subtractive mark-making. Together, the works in the exhibition will channel Johnson’s current preoccupation with notions of hybridity and metamorphosis, cohering into an immersive environment freighted with narrative possibilities. 

Related programming 
Panel discussion with Rashid Johnson and Katherine Brinson, associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum New York
Saturday, June 21, noon–1pm at the George Economou Collection Space

Media contact
Annie-Claire Geisinger: acgeisinger [​at​] / T +30 2108090595 / M +30 6947404053 

Rashid Johnson at the George Economou Collection
The George Economou Collection
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