Rashid Johnson’s ‘The New Black Yoga’ at DMA is a thought-provoking intro to artist’s work
The Chicago-born artist has a new immersive experience at the Dallas Museum of Art.
For anyone familiar with contemporary art, Rashid Johnson is a recognizable name.
His work, which crosses genre and media lines, defies easy definition. It tackles big topics, like race and class, with an ambiguity that allows the work to take on a singular poeticism, which is to say that looking at Johnson’s art can be both a profound and an enjoyable experience. The New Black Yoga Installation, a video work by Johnson that is on display at the Dallas Museum of Art, offers an excellent introduction to his art.
Visitors to the museum will find the piece tucked into a small gallery midway through the museum’s main corridor. It’s set up as an immersive experience — the video projection takes up an entire wall, and visitors can sit or stand on a collection of Persian rugs that fill the room’s floor. The experience runs on a loop that lasts nearly 11 minutes, which is enough time for the human brain — or at least mine — to slip into a meditative lull, watching the gestural flow of the men on screen.
Five Black men move across a beach performing yoga poses, dance moves, tai chi and martial arts. The video, which was originally shot on 16 mm film, bounces through time, moving to various locations and moments, all set to a pulsing beat, a chanting voice and flute melodies. The men move through space — no other humans in sight — appearing to practice for some unknown future event when these moves, balletic and militaristic, may be needed. Their movements are gentle yet powerful. The experience doesn’t feel radical, but it also doesn’t feel commonplace.
Like much of Johnson’s work, this 2011 video piece contains a quiet revolution. The men move across rugs that look just like the ones visitors are sitting on in the museum space. Those rugs are foreign objects on a sandy beach, providing a boundary for their movement, which takes place in front of the infinite backdrop of the coastal sky. The video then becomes an exploration of bodies in space, particularly the bodies of Black men.
This reading of the video elucidates a visual metaphor: The sand in the video and the rugs in the room are etched with crosshairs, evoking the ever-present danger of gun violence in America.
Johnson’s art is subtle and incisive, offering interpretative responses to issues plaguing American society. The 45-year-old artist is considered one of the most important voices of contemporary art, which is why he was the honoree of the 2022 Two X Two gala. (The annual event raises funds for the DMA and the Foundation for AIDS Research.) In turn, Johnson donated this video piece to the DMA’s collection, which means this won’t be the final opportunity to see this work.
Details“Focus On: Rashid Johnson,” which features The New Black Yoga Installation, runs through Sept. 9 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St. Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit dma.org.
SOURCE- Dallas Morning News
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