Johnson with elements from Promised Land

Jesse Jackson’s Gaffe this summer, involving a live mic and some less-than-collegial comments about Barack Obama, cast a glaringly bright light on the changing definitions of black identity in American politics. Indeed, the persistent buzz about whether Obama is "black enough" indicates a significant shift in American attitudes toward race. Artists can generally be relied upon to grapple with such shifts a bit sooner than the mainstream and have, for several years, been raising the question of whether we’re living in a "post-black" (and "post-white") society. Among the best of the young conceptual artists making art about racial identity—work that is smart, savvy, sometimes tinged with wry humor, and always unapologetic—is a former Chicagoan, Rashid Johnson, who received high praise for his New York solo debut last spring. With his September show in Chicago, The New Escapist Promised Land Garden and Recreation Center, Johnson continues his recent theme of Afro-futurism in a site-specific multi-media exhibition. Johnson calls it an "orgy between Sun Ra, Paul Gauguin, Kazmir Malevich, Debra Dickerson, and Eldridge Cleaver"—in short, decidedly ahead of the mainstream. 

Sep 5–Oct 11. Moniquemeloche, 118 N Peoria. 312-455-0299. Johnson is also slated for a September show at the Richard Gray Gallery, 875 N Michigan, Ste 2503. Call for dates: 312-642-8877.

Photography: Courtesy of the artist and monique meloche gallery, Chicago