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“Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks” at the MCA Chicago
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Party Pictures


Photos by Pedro Vélez
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Jet setters and art-world heavyweights, not monsters or black cats, showed up for the opening of “Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks,” Apr. 14-Aug. 5, 2012, organized by Julie Rodrigues Widholm at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on Friday the 13th, 2012.

The MCA can boast of presenting the first major museum exhibition devoted to the artist (b. 1977), whose success has included shows in respectable venues like Hauser & Wirth, New York; the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Massimo De Carlo, Milan (2010); David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Thelma Golden’s  “Freestyle," at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

But success has its down side -- someone is always there to rain on your parade. New York art critic Roberta Smith went on the record to imply that, due to his newfound glory, Johnson’s work “has become slicker and emptier, losing its rough edges and layered meanings.” I didn’t see the New York show, but I did find Johnson’s ten-year survey at the MCA to be visually stunning, surprisingly humorous and extremely meditative. It includes the new work -- monumental installations made of branded red-oak flooring, defaced mirrored mosaics and combines of viscous wax, black soap and shea butter.

For a short interview with the artist, check out this nine-month-old vid from Art21, titled Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things on.

contact Pedro Velez at

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