Rashid Johnson: New Poetry
Extending from within the Whitney out onto the plaza in front of the Museum, Rashid Johnson’s New Poetry was made specifically for this site. Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago) draws the title from a poem by Amiri Baraka and thinks of the work as a poem in itself. Poetry, the artist explains, is a “vehicle for the exploration of critical concerns, aesthetics, and the romantic … a mode that acts as a mirror for all other mediums.”
New Poetry continues Johnson’s ongoing series of steel-grid sculptures, which he began in 2004. Like previous iterations, this latest work is an illuminated grid of steel bars that form a shelf-like structure straddling the Museum’s indoor and outdoor spaces. Within the grid, grow lights nurture live plants set in ceramic pots made by the artist. Poetry books, carved blocks of shea butter, and TV monitors playing the artist’s 2010 silent short film Black Yoga are placed throughout.
This work is intended to mimic the function of a brain, condensing disparate materials and information into one intertwined space so that new connections and ways of thinking may be generated. The living nature of the work, and its exposed location, explore the bounds of institutional stewardship as well as the empathy and responsibility of audiences.