Rashid Johnson’s new interactive sound sculptures bring together a range of iconic forms he’s developed over the last decade. In particular, they recall the first shelf works he exhibited at my gallery in 2009. Next to symbols of transcendent Africanism, Rashid displayed CB radios and antenna-like constructions. These objects were metaphors for reaching out and connecting to another space: both a hierarchy-free social space, as well as the escape of far-out cosmic space. Sun Ra comes to mind. He’s an artist- musician Rashid and I share a deep affinity for. The new bronze shelf works feature working microphones, bringing these aspirations back to Earth. They materialize a direct feedback loop between speaker and audience. They are open-ended platforms for expression, protest, community.
For the exhibition’s opening, Rashid has brought together a range of potent voices: musicians Kahil El’Zabar, Alex Harding, Ian Maksin and Corey Wilkes, accompanied by the incredible poet and playwright Ntozake Shange. I’ve long been a fan of percussionist El’Zabar, especially. He collaborated with David Murray, who performed on occasion with the Grateful Dead, another shared interest of Rashid’s and mine. Murray produced an entire free jazz album of the Dead’s music—blurring identities and bridging universes.