The Medicalization of Blackness: Rashid Johnson and the Diseased Connotations of Race


Rashid Johnson, Antibiotic, 2011. Black soap and wax on board, 108 5/8 x 144 3/4 x 4”. 
Collection of the artist and Evan Boris. Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

"Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks" was a solo exhibition on view at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum from September 20, 2013 to January 6, 2014. The gestural painting Antibiotic (pictured above) differed from neighboring works because of its massive size, minimalist approach, and seemingly arbitrary title. This case study on Johnson's use of medium and semiotics reveals how the artist explores the parallels between germaphobia and xenophobia. Although he is often identified as "post-black" artist, Johnson refuses to allow the contemporary era pass as “post-racial,” emphasizing the persistence of innate racist sentiments within the human psyche in the current age.

The full essay appeared in Student Pulse, Volume 7, No. 04.
To learn more about the exhibition, visit the official webpage for Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks.