New Poetry is a recent addition to Rashid Johnson’s ongoing series of steel-grid sculptures, which he began in 2004. This installation, which is located at The Whitney in New York, consists of an illuminated grid structure made of steel bars, spanning both indoor and outdoor spaces of the museum. The grid features live plants nurtured by grow lights and placed in ceramic pots handmade by the artist.
Additionally, the installation incorporates poetry books, carved blocks of shea butter, and TV monitors displaying Johnson’s 2010 silent short film titled Black Yoga. The intention behind this work was to create a brain-like space that combines diverse materials and information, enabling the generation of new connections and modes of thinking. The living elements and exposed location of the installation explore the boundaries of institutional stewardship and engage the empathy and responsibility of viewers.
I love how the piece bisects the space, living both inside and out, transporting your eye through. His work reminds me of a contemporary version of that scene from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with each shelf holding some kind of wonder or curiosity. I’m sure the work is even more impactful now, as New York in winter can be quite cold and snowy, and this exhibit gives you the exact opposite feeling.