Rashid Johnson painting acquired by Phoenix Art Museum

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Rashid Johnson painting acquired by Phoenix Art Museum
Rashid Johnson. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio, Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery.

PHOENIX, AZ.- Phoenix Art Museum announces the acquisition of Untitled Anxious Bruise Drawing (2021) by critically acclaimed New York-based artist Rashid Johnson. The work is the latest purchased by the Museum with funds from the Dawn and David Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative and furthers the Museum’s mission to diversify its contemporary art holdings. Johnson, whose work was recently presented in a solo exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, is internationally renowned for his abstract and evocative installations, two- and three-dimensional objects, videos, and performances that explore themes of social history, art history, philosophy, and his own autobiography. His work is the fourth acquired by the Museum since 2017 through the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative and will be on view in 2022.

“We are excited to add Rashid Johnson’s work to the Museum’s contemporary art collection,” said Mark Koenig, the Interim Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Not only does this acquisition, made possible by Dawn and David Lenhardt, bring greater diversity to the experiences and perspectives represented in the Museum’s collection—it also advances our contemporary art holdings and ensures our community has access to some of the most significant and dynamic artists working today.”

Born in Chicago and now based in New York, Rashid Johnson studied photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, but his practice has since expanded to embrace sculpture, painting, drawing, filmmaking, and installation. Through spontaneous and unmediated mark-making, his work addresses the existential conditions of his own life as well as life itself, resulting in compositions that are both autobiographical and metaphorical.

The latest Lenhardt acquisition, Johnson’s Untitled Anxious Bruise Drawing (2021) is part of a new series of drawings and paintings by the artist titled Bruise. The series, which recently debuted in the artist’s solo exhibition Black and Blue at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, develops themes presented in Johnson’s Anxious Red series that he created during the pandemic to explore the anxiety, isolation, and loss felt by many due to COVID-19. These Bruise works, including Untitled Anxious Bruise Drawing, use gridded compositions of expressive half-geometric, halfhuman faces in various shades of blue to conjure the feelings of aftermath, reckoning, and healing that have now taken hold of people from all walks of life, all over the globe. They also draw from the mood and lyrics of the Fats Waller jazz standard “Black and Blue,” which was made popular by Louis Armstrong and is an important motif in Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man. In this way, the paintings reflect not just the immediate impact of violent social changes sparked by the pandemic and the intensification of hostilities across political lines, but how current social moments and movements are indicative of ongoing, historical inequities.

“In a relatively short amount of time, Rashid Johnson has developed an intensive practice that has embraced a wide range of media,” said Gilbert Vicario, the Museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art. “Johnson’s Bruise Drawings, part of his most recent body of work, demonstrate his capacity to simultaneously draw from figuration and abstraction to evoke aspects of African-American intellectual history and cultural identity through the emotionally and psychologically charged lens of the past two years.”

Solo exhibitions of Johnson’s work have been presented nationally and internationally, including at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; Milwaukee Art Museum; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; and Drawing Center, New York. His first feature-length film, an adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released in 2019 on HBO, and his interactive installation and sound work is open through Fall 2021 at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York. Johnson’s work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and now, Phoenix Art Museum.

“Dawn and I are thrilled that Phoenix Art Museum has added this spectacular work by Rashid Johnson into its collection,” said David Lenhardt, who also serves as the vice chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Johnson’s visceral paintings spark important and timely conversations around prevalent social inequities. We are inspired by the ways Johnson uses his platform to give back to various communities and how his practice and civic commitments inspire younger artists working today. We are grateful for the opportunity to help Phoenix Art Museum acquire this work so that it will be represented in the institution’s contemporary art collection in perpetuity.”

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