From 19 February to 15 May 2016, GAMeC is pleased to present Reasons, Rashid Johnson’s first solo museum exhibition in Italy.
Born in Chicago in 1977, Johnson lives and works in New York and is an African-American artist considered central in the debate revolving around the issues of identity, integration and memory.

Having studied fine art photography, Johnson embarked on an extraordinary career in 2001, where at the age of twenty-one he was the youngest artist to participate in the ground-breaking “Freestyle” exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, curated by Thelma Golden. His development as an artist can be traced through major solo museum shows, which include Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2012), Miami Art Museum (2012), South London Gallery (2012), Ballroom Marfa in Texas (2013), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2014), Kunsthalle Winterthur (2014) and most recently, The Drawing Center in New York (2015).

Curated by Stefano Raimondi, the exhibition staged by GAMeC showcases a series of historical works to offer an intimate yet broad introduction to Johnson’s artistic practice, with an aim to enter into a fascinating network of formal and narrative stratifications, suggestions, and personal or historical experiences that shape his work.

For the exhibition title, Reasons, Johnson was inspired by the eponymous song by American band Earth, Wind & Fire, as the lyrics are closely linked with the meaning of the works on display. In each of his works, the artist encompasses the reasons that were the source of inspiration for their genesis: reasons inspired by the attempt to investigate personal questions as well as universal issues that Johnson strives to explore through his work.
The media presented in the exhibition are diverse – black soap, wax, ceramic tile, spray enamel, books, vinyl records, oyster shells, shea butter, live plants with grow lights – but are all familiar from the artist’s multivalent practice, and through their repeated use many have become Johnson’s signature materials, offering a gateway to the artist’s world: sculpture, painting, installation and video.

Some elements are bearers of a cultural phenomenon: wax, soap and shea butter were widely used during the African diaspora and were later associated with the cultural ideology of Afrocentrism in the United States in the late twentieth century; vinyl records and books refer to a more intimate story which alludes to the albums that the artist listened to as a boy. His father’s electrical instruments and texts the artist took from his mother’s library form part of what is defined as the memorialization of the process of appropriation and re-transposition of the domestic space.

All the materials carry these memories, but in the artist’s hands they become the objects of a broader narration. Taken out of their original context, they have been chosen for their ability to interact; they lose their biographical or knowledge-related connotation and are used as instruments that can create signs and graphic traces, becoming lines and thus references to minimal art, as elements to distribute information and subtexts. For Johnson “the artist functions as a time traveller” and his work is “a means or portal to effectively rewrite history, not as a revision but as a work of fiction”.

The exhibition is part of a series in honour of Arturo Toffetti.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by GAMeC Books.

The exhibition is staged with the support of Hauser & Wirth.

Thanks to Massimo De Carlo, Milano/Londra/Hong Kong.