Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rashid Johnson's "Fly Away" at Hauser and Wirth

Rashid Johnson’s use of tropical flora and fauna provides an aesthetically refreshing escape from the concrete life of New York City.  Through the use of carefully selected materials, Johnson’s work has serious undertones that address racial injustices and the instability of social structures.

While the work is aesthetically pleasing, it is impossible to ignore the issues and questions that Johnson poses in his work.  The works high contrast, simplicity and scale are beautiful to see. As viewers enter the gallery they are immediately confronted with a series of faces made of black soap that are sculpted in low relief on white tiles.  These faces have an eerie quality to them and dominate the large space.

Navigating the next two rooms is a much different atmosphere.  The wallpaper cutouts of tropical plants employs heavy use of rich and bold colors. These bright greens, blues and yellows, along with the use of real plants on a huge metal framed cube sculpture, provide a window into what seems to be a warm tropical paradise.  There is a strong sense of escape that comes up, a sort of departing from the city that happens while you sit with the work. By juxtaposing materials such as black soap with white bathroom tiles, a dialogue of absurdity and the grotesque is raised. Overall, Johnson’s use of materials is wittily done and the scale of the pieces fit perfectly into the large rooms of the venue.  


  1. This review gives us a strong sense of the work Rashid Johnson brings to Hauser & Wirth. The descriptions of the work make me feel like I’m right there with you in the gallery, but I’d like to hear more about the “racial injustices and the instability of social structures”. I’d also like to hear about the shea butter sculptures and broken mirror pieces, in the room adjacent to the main prism of flora. The first and second sentences could maybe be switched. But that being said, they give us a good sense of what this show is about: escape, reality, and racial issues.

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  4. I like how your review takes the viewer into the experience of Johnson’s exhibition, which seems to trick the visitor into a sense of escape and freedom through aesthetically pleasing artworks. But there could be more clarity on what is it that the artist trying to say through his "carefully selected materials" (you mention race and instability, but that could be more specific). Maybe the second paragraph is a good moment to explain the meaning of the works.

    A detail that I noticed is that in the first sentence you use the terms “flora and fauna” but I’m not sure if that is right, unless there were any animals in the gallery.