The Anxiety and Ecstasy of Rashid Johnson

Antwaun Sargent, GQ, October 3, 2023

Rashid Johnson was a blue-chip artist whose work offered a radically fresh portrayal of Black cultural identity. Then he got sober, found God, and began to transform the art world from the inside.


One way to measure an artist’s success on the island of Manhattan is real estate, and by that metric, among many others, Rashid Johnson has been very successful. On a recent Thursday afternoon, he stood in the sunlit living room of the white 19th-century town house he’d purchased, in 2020, from the late Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and his supermodel wife, Paulina Porizkova, for $9 million. Directly across the street is the home of the artist couple Rachel Feinstein and John Currin; Oleg Cassini, the Russian Italian fashion designer, once lived a few doors down. Johnson’s row house was nestled in the middle of “Block Beautiful,” the leafy stretch of East 19th Street, in Gramercy Park, where particularly prosperous writers, musicians, painters, designers, and architects have been flocking for over a century, turning it into a kind of de facto artists colony.


Before moving into the 5,800-square-foot house with his wife, the Iranian-born artist Sheree Hovsepian, and their young son, Julius, Johnson oversaw a gut renovation of the residence, in part to make way for his wide-ranging collection of paintings, sculptures, and photographs. On a wall near the kitchen, I recognized the conceptual artist David Hammons’s 2012 Untitled (Basketball Drawing), which he made by repeatedly bouncing a basketball coated in charcoal and dirt on a giant sheet of paper. “Of course,” Johnson said when I gestured toward it, as if it would be profane for him not to own work by Hammons, perhaps his most immediate creative forebear.


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