Br(others) only : Rashid Johnson, class, and the fraternal orders of Afrofuturism
Br(others) Only conceptualizes the wall sculptures of Rashid Johnson as free-standing “altars” that play with different and sometimes divergent brands of black masculinity and classed homosociality. Primarily, I analyze three of Johnson’s sculptures from the late 2000s: I Who Have Nothing (2008); I’m Still in Love with You (2008); and Souls of Black Folk (2010). I argue that, by invoking the history of black renaissance men, gentlemen scholars, and entertainers, Johnson’s work plays with various kinds of black masculinity and homosociality that simultaneously straddle the past and future. By doing so, his art not only enacts a racialized temporality, but it also chips away at monolithic notions of black masculinity by fabricating contradictory amalgams of race, class, and gender. For my analysis of Johnson’s artworks, I utilize Cassandra Jackson’s Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body (2010) as the chief framework for conceptualizing the waxy coats of Johnson’s sculptures as wounded bodies in an effort to “flesh out” the vulnerability of black men. Theorizing the putrescent surfaces of Johnson’s sculptures as violable bodies allows me to consider the ruptures between seemingly impenetrable black masculinity and the always-present vulnerability of the black male body to violence.