Rashid Johnson
Photo: Eric Vogel

5-Minute Journal: Artist Rashid Johnson Opens His Diary for Galerie

Over the course of one week, Johnson answered three questions each day and shared his entries with Galerie readers

Artist Rashid Johnson works in a broad range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, drawing, filmmaking, and performance, to explore personal narratives and common cultural identities, often challenging the assumptions prevalent in shared notions of blackness.

In early July, Johnson’s solo exhibition will open at the Aspen Art Museum (AAM). Presented in partnership with the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, the show will debut four collage-based works as well as a major new commission (he was the winner of the 2018 Aspen Award for Art), an installation featuring live performance and video.

Ahead of his new show, we’re lucky to have Johnson share his daily journal with Galerie at the behest of AAM CEO and director Heidi Zuckerman. In January, in celebration of the museum’s 40th anniversary this year, Zuckerman kicked off a project in which she shared her journal with our readers for one week and then asked a different artist each month thereafter to share theirs. Thus far, we’ve seen the journals of Sarah Cain, Gedi Sibony, Amy Sillman, and Abraham Cruzvillegas.

Recommended: The 5-Minute Journal: Frieze Projects Artist Sarah Cain Opens Her Diary for Galerie

Johnson has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Sculpture Center, New York; and the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. He is represented by Hauser & Wirth.

To gain more insights into the artist and his work, you can also read an excerpt of an interview with Zuckerman that is forthcoming in Conversations with Artists Vol. II (Aspen Art Press). Enjoy!

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Escape Collage, 2018. Photo: Martin Pareskian © Rashid Johnson Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

Rashid Johnson’s 5-Minute Journal for the Week of May 27, 2019

DAY 1

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
The most surprising thing about my day . . . I learned something in the studio today. . . . I pushed a scale boundary in a way that I didn’t expect to. I’m excited about that. I’m not surprised that I was willing to do it, but I’m surprised that it was as successful as it was.

What made you feel loved today?
Today my wife called me when I was on my way to work. She had seen a crime scene with blood all over the place and parts of a body. It was very disgusting apparently. She called me to make sure that I was not that person. It made me think she’s thinking of me and she loves me.

Recommended: The 5-Minute Journal: Aspen Art Museum CEO Heidi Zuckerman Opens Her Diary for Galerie

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I honestly wish I had I gotten up a little bit earlier. I usually get up early, but I broke my foot and I’ve been a little bit lazy. I was going to go the gym today, and I didn’t. I was planning to go meet my trainer, and I skipped it. I wish I had done that today.

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Escape Collage, 2018. Photo: Martin Pareskian © Rashid Johnson Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

DAY 2

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
I had someone come to visit me today who was much more interesting than I had expected. A young actor. And they were really cool and they were interested in art and it was nice to talk to them. That was a pleasant surprise. She came with her girlfriend, and that was surprising because I didn’t know they were on schedule to come visit me. They were really sweet and smart and thoughtful. That was surprising and nice.

Rashid Johnson’s studio. Photo: Courtesy of Rashid Johnson

What made you feel loved today?
A good friend of mine from childhood called me and was telling me about his baby who was born. He and I don’t talk very much. He said to me that he’s been craving communication with me and that he was so happy to talk to me. I guess the fact that friends of yours from different times crave conversation with you makes me feel loved.

Recommended: The 5-Minute Journal: Artist Gedi Sibony Opens His Diary for Galerie

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
There are so many things about my studio practice that were not done well today! I would like to have meditated this morning. I keep feeling like I’m missing opportunities to do that. I wish I had done that this morning.

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Escape Collage, 2018. Photo: Martin Pareskian © Rashid Johnson Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

DAY 3

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
The most surprisingly thing about my day is that it’s gone so slowly. It’s nothing specific but it’s gone . . . sooo slowly. That’s been the most surprising thing.

Johnson as a child with his mother. Photo: Courtesy of Rashid Johnson

What made you feel loved today?
My son gave me a big kiss before he left for school. He’s seven years old. That made me feel very loved. And my mom sent me some pictures of myself as a baby that were kind of nice.

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I was braggadocios about something to someone, and I wish I hadn’t been. It was unnecessary.

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Escape Collage, 2018. Photo: Martin Pareskian © Rashid Johnson. Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

DAY 4

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
I broke my foot and had surgery about a month ago. I was walking down the street and I got a knee scooter, so I look like a big black nerd. I’m, like, 6′ 2″, 225 pounds, I look like a football player. And I’ve got this little dog—well, not that little, a Labradoodle, a medium-size dog. So I’ve got my dog with me and my knee scooter and my crutches and a bag . . . and it was all too much shit. I’m really pretty stable. I’m a solid athletic person, so I don’t trip and fall a lot, but I was really overwhelmed with all of the stuff that I had. And my dog was pulling me, and I fell. And I have a cast on my left foot, so there I am, feeling lost. It surprised me how you can go from feeling strong and confident and moving through the world to being a big guy on your back with a Labradoodle. You can’t control your body . . . you need all of your things. You forget how you need all of your stuff—you need your hands and your feet, you get accustomed to these things. It can be surprising how you forget how difficult the world is when you lose an appendage. I feel like I lost an appendage with breaking my foot. It’s made it very challenging. There are endless lessons that I’m learning as a result.

What made you feel loved today?
I feel loved most days. I’ve got so many people around me who I believe have my best interests in mind. Today in particular I had one of my best friends share something very personal about his relationship. When you feel like someone is willing to share something that is so personal, and not necessarily deeply flattering, it shows that they love and trust you. Although it’s frustrating for me to have to see him go through these personal obstacles in his relationship, I felt loved and appreciated that he was willing to share these struggles with me and depend on me to help him resolve them.

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I wish I had meditated today. I could say that one every day though. I was really quick with my wife in the morning. She came home from the Hamptons in the morning early, and I kept asking her the same question over and over. I could have been more patient. Honestly, I could have been more patient the whole day, with everyone. I don’t think I was mean-spirited, I don’t think it was intentional. Sometimes my fear is overwhelming for me, and it causes impatience.  I wish I could have been more patient today as a whole.

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Escape Collage, 2018. Photo: Martin Pareskian © Rashid Johnson Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth

DAY 5

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
Robert Mueller made a statement today suggesting that he potentially would have found the president guilty of a crime had he had the option to charge him. But based on the fact that the president, under what he perceived as a constitutional distinction, cannot be charged with a crime that he did not find him guilty of, exclusively because he cannot be taken to trial for his crimes. So today Mueller more or less backed up what many people believed, that the president is potentially guilty of obstruction but cannot be charged with a high crime while in office. I’m disappointed that we find ourselves in this kind of conundrum. I’m both surprised and not surprised at the same time. I was surprised to see him come out and make the statement that we made earlier. I have a really bad disease of watching a tremendous amount of CNN. I also listen to quite a bit of NPR. I don’t advocate for these ways of consuming; this just happens to be the unfortunate way that news is often delivered to me. There’s so many sources these days.

What made you feel loved today?
Today is my anniversary—nine years married to my wife, Sheree. We got some time to hang out this morning just her and me. I feel a tremendous gratitude that she has made the decision to be my wife and my partner in life. I love her very much. That made me feel loved today. We’re not going to celebrate much today because of other plans, but we do have family time planned in the next few weeks.

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I think there were ways that I could have used my time more productively than I did today. Part of that was watching Mueller. That kept me home watching it, rather than doing other things that were more productive. I could have used my time better.

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