Rashid Johnson’s "There are Stranger Villages" at Guido W. Baudach, Berlin
              Kirsty Bell
              The title of Rashid Johnson’s first solo show in Berlin makes a sideways allusion to “Stranger in the Village,” an essay written in 1955 by American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. This is worth bearing in mind; not because the situation in Berlin mirrors that of the remote Swiss village in which Baldwin found himself as the first black man the astonished villagers had ever seen—as Johnson says, “there are stranger villages”—but nevertheless, the African-American experience of racism, inseparable as it is from the ugly legacy of slavery, hatred, and exploitation, has a different timbre to that in Europe. “I am a stranger here,” said Baldwin, “but I am not a stranger in America.” Johnson’s works take up the question of African-American identity and present its symptoms in object form. Despite their local production—Johnson spent the summer living in Berlin to produce the exhibition—the works here revisit several of the artist’s now signature forms and themes. Large black wall-mounted panels with perpendicular shelves supporting various objects such as house plants, books, record covers or small bronze sculptures; black-and-white portrait photographs with a nineteenth-century feel; small paintings with dense black and white cosmologies arrived at by covering the canvas with …

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