Detroit Institute of Arts acquires major video work by renowned conceptual artist Rashid Johnson
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Detroit Institute of Arts acquires major video work by renowned conceptual artist Rashid Johnson
“Samuel in Space” Critically Examines and Reimagines how the Black Male Body Inhabits a Landscape. DIA purchase, with funds donated by The White Levin Family to the Center for African American Art. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth © Rashid Johnson.

DETROIT, MICH.- The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) today announced it has acquired an extraordinary video work by preeminent conceptual artist Rashid Johnson. The work, Samuel in Space (2013), explores the Black male body as a site of reflection on histories past and progression towards rejuvenation and new meaning in the future.

Samuel in Space depicts a Black male dancer moving (or tumbling) through the high desert at sunrise, seemingly laying claim to and reveling in the landscape. Filmed in Marfa, Texas, the work continues a trajectory that began with The New Black Yoga, a dance-like movement piece originally inspired by Johnson’s attempt to learn yoga while in Berlin, where his inability to understand German thwarted both his physical and intellectual mastery of the poses.

“We are thrilled to have purchased this profound video work by Rashid Johnson for our permanent collection,” said Valerie Mercer, curator and department head of the DIA’s Center for African American Art. “Here the Black male body in the landscape symbolizes reflections on past histories, as well as the striving towards change and new meaning in the future.”

Born in Chicago, Johnson is among an influential group of contemporary American artists whose work employs a wide range of media to explore themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, literature, philosophy, materiality, and critical history.

The DIA owns three other works by Johnson in a variety of media: Jonathan’s Eyes (between 1998 and 1999), van dyke photoprint; River Crossing (2011), mirrored tile, black soap wax; and Untitled Anxious Crowd (2018) softground etching on heavy-weight cream wove paper.

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