Rashid Johnson (b. 1977) is a highly regarded contemporary artist known for his works in a variety of media, including sculpture, installation, photography, and painting. Often juxtaposing materials in unexpected combinations, Johnson’s works contain multilayered allusions to art history, the environment, mass media, and African American identity. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Planet (2014), its second work by the artist following the 2022 acquisition of the digital print The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett) (2008).
Mirror reliefs are one of the artist’s signature forms. The mirrored surface causes the viewer to perceive their splintered reflection amid splashes of black soap and the melted wax Johnson has dripped on the tiles. Blocks of yellow shea butter—a traditional African hairstyling agent—are displayed on shelves that project into the gallery space. Placed on another shelf, an album cover with a famous photograph from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing embeds an image of Earth within the work. Joining such other mirrored works as Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Donna che indica (Woman who points) (1982) and Lucas Samaras’s Mirrored Cell (1988), Johnson’s Planet is a significant addition to the National Gallery’s collection.