Rashid Johnson, Within Our Gates, installation view at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2016. All photos by Alexey Naroditsky, courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.
When New York-based artist Rashid Johnson first visited Moscow in early 2015, he was fascinated by how the Soviet architecture was in a state of transformation. For him, it recalled a visit to the island Turks and Caicos, where structures were being taken over by tropical vegetation. When Johnson got a commission in the atrium of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, he decided to fuse these two memories and transform them into a towering grid-like installation housing a “living ecosystem” that visitors could enter and explore. Maze-like and multimedia in format, Within Our Gates features sculptural elements, moving images, sound, everyday objects, and a variety of tropical plants including palms and ferns. It's not just about Moscow and Turks and Caicos in flux—but the world.
“It was when the place was full of anticipation, but the buildings were never finished and it looked to me like this incredible, deformed dream,” Johnson says of Within Our Gates. “There are a lot of different ways to interpret that, but it's the contradictions that I keep thinking about in relation to the new work I’m making for Moscow, which will keep growing and changing over the time it is on show.”
Johnson’s installation incorporates Russian rugs, books by African American authors (amongst other writers), Fellini’s 8 ½ and other iconic films, as well as shea butter, a popular hair and skin product derived from the African shea tree. This is but a small sampling of the objects and media to be experienced within the Sol LeWitt-inspired minimalist 3D grid structure.
“Together these incongruent building blocks give form to a stream of consciousness that offers a different perspective on cultural symbols and artifacts,” the museum notes. “Transcending worn clichés of class, nation, and race, the sculpture invites viewers to prioritize intuition and affinity as a mode of experience.”
Within Our Gates runs until August 31st at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. Click here to see more of Rashid Johnson’s work.