signed 'Rashid Johnson' (on the reverse)
branded red oak flooring, black soap and wax
84 ¾ x 60 ½ in. (215.3 x 153.7 cm.)
Executed in 2013.
Hauser & Wirth, New York
Private collection, 2013
Anon. sale; Phillips, New York, 15 May 2019, lot 320
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale


Part of a series of abstract portraits first unveiled in 2013, Rashid Johnson’s Glenn (2013) is a larger-than-life, equally figurative and ambiguous “character” imagined by the artist and executed using his signature choice of medium. Beginning with a panel made from wood flooring, Johnson organizes the material into a geometric composition and then sprays with gold enamel paint. After the ground plane has been created, the artist uses a blow torch to burn off the paint layer, leaving behind a gold aura on the kindled surface. Using his signature black soap and wax mixture, the artist spreads the material in gestural forms to create an abstracted figure, or “character.”
In 2001, Johnson made his debut as the youngest artist in Thelma Golden’s seminal group exhibition Freestyle at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Beginning with photographic work, the artist has since developed an eloquent conceptual practice established by distinctive material intelligence. Thinking about materials and their connections to issues of identity, race, and class, the artist utilizes disparate media to communicate his ideas. “'The materials I’ve used over the last five to 10 years were things that were close to me, that reminded me of certain aspects of my experience growing up – for example, the relationship I had to Afrocentrism through my parents in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. my mother would always have shea butter around, and she wore dashikis. I was celebrating Kwanzaa, hearing the unfamiliar language, Swahili, and seeing black soap and chew sticks around the house, things that were about applying an Africanness to one’s self,' the artist states in a 2012 interview; Johnson continues, 'Then my parents evolved into middle-class black professionals, and I was kind of abandoned in this Afrocentric space they had created. I was forced to negotiate what that period and those objects meant for me. I saw these things, as I got older, in Harlem, in Brooklyn, being sold on the street. I always thought to myself: What is the goal now with these materials? What are people trying to get from them?'” (C. Stackhouse, “Rashid Johnson,” Art in America, 3 April 2012). Johnson plays with these ideas and objects through his artistic practice, combining his interest in abstraction and mark-making with his interest in the physical, constructed object, and bringing to question what it means when these things – symbols of his childhood and cultural upbringing – are presented in a way that no longer functions in the way they were originally meant to.

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