Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Scott Ferguson, Ph.D.
Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.
Margaret Miller, M.A.
Abstraction, Aesthetics, Contemporary Art, Kamasi Washington, Minimalism, Visual Art
My reading of Antoine’s Organ, a sculptural installation created by the artist Rashid Johnson in 2016, explores the artwork as a richly textured response to the limited universalism of modernism. I argue that Antoine’s Organ is a multimodal expression which crafts a harmony of difference using the aesthetic language and forms of both visual art and music. The term “harmony of difference” is taken from and inspired by a composition of the same name by jazz musician Kamasi Washington, and is used within to describe Rashid Johnson’s counterpoint strategy to work differences with and against each other, mobilizing the grid’s organizational properties to craft a harmony through their relationship. This paper builds upon extant writing on Johnson’s art which has just scratched the surface of his engagement with the grid and adds to the discourse around the grid in contemporary art which recovers its unique abilities to connect and cohere without imposing sameness or cutting across the inherent idiosyncrasies of humanity. Similarly, Johnson uses the aesthetic grid to mutually invoke and critique its historically problematic notions of universality, foreclosing the grid’s reductive power to homogenize difference. In figurative and literal conversation with the grids of artists including Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Josef Albers, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Mickalene Thomas, I show how Antoine’s Organ recasts the grid from its connection to the whiteness and privilege associated with minimalist art to an unconditional universalism by centering both personal and collective ways of being Black within and beyond its rigid structure.
Scholar Commons Citation
Fredricks, Mark, "Harmony of Difference: Theorizing Rashid Johnson's New Universalism in the Grids of Antoine's Organ" (2022). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.