Rashid Johnson, The Travelers’ Broken Crowd

Rashid Johnson, The Travelers' Broken Crowd

Rashid Johnson‘s mosaic The Travelers’ Broken Crowd features 60 faces looking out from a wall, many of which appear anxious or agitated. Visible from three layers, the 45-by-15-foot mosaic depicts the title “Broken Men” seeing and being seen by travelers. Mostly, the faces consist of just eyes and rectangular mouths assembled from irregular ceramic pieces. Many of the faces are covered, whether by bright tiles, cracked pieces of mirror, oyster shells, or abstract illustrations. A few of the faces are overlayed by smaller faces with less discernable features, and the work also uses a combination of black soap and black wax as a suggestion of sensitivity.

Johnson, who now lives in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, aimed to produce a kind of stability within the piece, capturing the concerns of the present moment and the future. The work should continue to teach people every time they pass by, even amid different temporalities. Many of Johnson’s pieces fit into the genre of post-black art, which ties together race and racism in a way that seems to dispel notions that race matters. After first gaining attention at the Freestyle exhibition at Harlem’s Studio Museum, Johnson would go on to have solo exhibitions at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, Drawing Center in Manhattan, and Storm King Art Center. He has artworks at many major New York City museums and recently showcased his Untitled Broken Crowd at Brookfield Place.