Tag Archives: Rashid Johnson

TONI MORRISON — THE PIECES I AM

Navigating a white male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I knew more than them. — Toni Morrison

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM—the new documentary by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, now in theaters—is a joyous, exhilarating look at the life and work of a great American author, teacher, and editor who has always been happy to be labeled a “black writer,” a “woman writer.”

“I didn’t want to speak for black people. I wanted to speak to, and among…”

And it is shocking, in Greenfield-Sanders documentary, to come across such benighted critical voices as, say, Sara Blackburn’s in 1973, in America’s supposedly liberal newspaper of record:

“Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain only a marvelous recorder of the black side of provincial American life.”*

Removing the white male gaze as the dominant voice is a key element of Morrison’s practice, and she doesn’t hesitate calling out black writers who seemed to write to white audiences. Citing Ralph Ellison, she asks, “The Invisible Man? Invisible to whom?”

As a senior editor at Random House throughout the 1970s, Morrison discovered and championed books by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, and Bettie Wysor (author of The Lesbian Myth). She also persuaded Angela Davis—then in her late twenties—to write her autobiography.

“Eventually I learned that the book she wanted to publish was the book I wanted to write… She helped me access my imagination in ways I continue to be grateful for today.” — Angela Davis

Song of Solomon (1977) was Morrison’s first best seller, and five years later she left her editor’s post to devote her time to writing and teaching. She’s professor emeritus at Princeton University, and often told her students, “I know you’ve been told, ‘write what you know.’ I don’t want you to do that. You don’t know anything.”

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM features interviews with Morrison’s friends and colleagues—Walter Mosley, Farah Griffin, Fran Lebowitz, Paula Giddings, Hilton Als, Sonia Sanchez, editor Robert Gottlieb, and Davis—as well as a rich selection of contemporary artwork by, among others, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, David Hammons, and Rashid Johnson.

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM

Music Hall

9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

Downtown Independent

251 South Main Street, Los Angeles.

Arclight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.

The Landmark

10850 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*Sara Blackburn, review of Sula, by Toni Morrison, New York Times, December 30, 1973.

From top: Toni Morrison, photograph from Toni Morrrison—The Pieces I Am; Morrison, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Morrison with her sons Ford Morrison (left) and Slade Morrison in 1978, photograph by Jack Mitchell, Getty Images; poster courtesy Magnolia Pictures; Morrison and Greenfield-Sanders, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Images courtesy and © the author, the photographers, and Magnolia Pictures.

RASHID JOHNSON’S NATIVE SON

For his directorial debut, Rashid Johnson has shot an update of Richard Wright’s controversial 1940 novel about Bigger Thomas’ seemingly irrevocable slide into the void. The screenplay by Suzan Lori-Parks changes some of the novel’s key plot points—”It’s not the book,” Elvis Mitchell told a recent Film Independent audience at the Arclight screening in Hollywood—but the expendability of black lives in this new NATIVE SON is, tragically, still contemporary.

“One of the criticisms of the book—and one I share—is the character’s lack of agency. Wright wrote them as archetypes.” — Rashid Johnson, at the Film Independent screening of NATIVE SON

As Bigger, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) gives a performance of cool hesitation that recalls the voice and armature of James Dean and a young Keanu Reeves. For a scene at the home of Bigger’s rich, art-collecting employer, Johnson—in an audacious move—places his own 2015 painting Untitled (Anxious Man) directly behind Sanders as an angel/devil-over-my-shoulder figure.

NATIVE SON—which premieres tonight on HBO—co-stars KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), Bill Camp, Sanaa Lathan, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Elizabeth Marvel, and David Alan Grier.

NATIVE SON, on HBO

From April 6.

Film stills, from top: Ashton Sanders in Native Son (2019); Sanders and KiKi Layne; Sanders; Sanders and Nick Robinson (right); Sanders. Photographs by Matthew Libatique, images courtesy Sundance Institute and HBO.

Film Independent photos, from top: KiKi Layne and Rashid Johnson; Elvis Mitchell, Johnson, and Layne. Film Independent Presents HBO Screening Series—Native Son, March 20, 2019, Arclight Hollywood, photographs by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.

GRACE WALES BONNER

The public presentation of MUMBO JUMBOGrace Wales Bonner’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection that shares a title with Ismael Reed’s revolutionary 1972 novel—will conclude A TIME FOR NEW DREAMS, Wales Bonner’s exhibition at the Serpentine.

Throughout this final week of the show, the dancer and performance artist Michael-John Harper will take residence within the gallery and perform a daily ritual of movements.

Exploring “magical resonances within black cultural and aesthetic practices” through improvised installations and shrines, A TIME FOR NEW DREAMS also incorporates the work of Chino AmobiBlack Audio Film Collective, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, David Hammons, Michael-John Harper, Liz Johnson Artur, Rashid Johnson, Kapwani Kiwanga, Klein, Laraaji, Eric N. Mack, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ben Okri, Ishmael Reed, Sahel Sounds, and Wales Bonner.

GRACE WALES BONNER—A TIME FOR NEW DREAMS

Through February 16.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

West Carriage Drive, Hyde Park, London.

Exhibition booklet.

From top: Eric N. Mack, Capital Heights, 2019, in Grace Wales Bonner—A Time for New Dreams, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 2019; Rashid Johnson, Untitled (daybed 1), 2012; Wales Bonner; Grace Wales Bonner, Everything’s for RealLiz Johnson Artur, There is only one…one, 2019. Images courtesy the artists and the Serpentine Galleries.

GROUNDINGS

GROUNDINGS, organized by Grace Deveney and Tara Aisha Willis, explores movement—seen and unseen—through a series of residencies with artists who work in dance, music, and performance art. The exhibition considers the reciprocal influence between bodies in motion and the invisible forces that govern movement, such as gravity, time, and electricity.

Over the run of GROUNDINGS, performers will hold open rehearsals in which they create performances and physical objects that speak to the themes of the exhibition.

GROUNDINGS artists include Katinka Bock, Blythe Bohnen, George Brecht, John Cage, Martin Soto Climent, Julia Dault, JimmyDeSana, Jonas Dovydenas, Adam EkbergWhit Forrester, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rashid Johnson, IsaacJulien, Annette Kelm, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Jack Pierson, Stan Shellabarger, Nancy Spero, Dannielle Tegeder, CarrieMae Weems, and James Welling.

GROUNDINGS

Through May 12.

MCA Chicago

220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago.

From top:

John CageA Dip in the Lake: Ten Quicksteps, Sixty-two Waltzes, and Fifty-six Marches for Chicago and Vicinity, 1978. Felt-tip pen on map. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. © 1993 John Cage TrustPhotograph © MCA Chicago.

Annette KelmUntitled, 2012. Chromogenic development print. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Jimmy De SanaCowboy Boots, 1984. Vintage cibachrome. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Courtesy of the JimmyDe Sana Trust and Salon 94, New York.

Rashid Johnson, Multiple Consciousness, 2010. Gelatin silver print. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. © 2010 RashidJohnsonPhotograph by Nathan Keay© MCA Chicago.

RASHID JOHNSON IN ASPEN

This week at the Aspen Art Museum, Rashid Johnson will give an artist talk, and accept the 2018 Aspen Award for Art during ArtCrush, the museum’s celebrated annual summer benefit.

 

RASHID JOHNSON—ARTIST TALK, Thursday, August 2, at 5 pm.

ASPEN ART MUSEUM, 637 East Hyman Avenue, Aspen.

aspenartmuseum.org/rashid-johnson

ARTCRUSH, Friday, August 3, at 6 pm.

BUTTERMILK MOUNTAIN, Aspen

aspenartmuseum.org/calendar/artcrush

aspenartmuseum.org/artcrush

 Rashid Johnson. Image courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

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