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Storm King Art Center

Rashid Johnson’s deeply personal artistic language draws on richly symbolic materials in order to explore themes of individual and shared cultural identities, personal narratives, history, and materiality. Never before presented in the United States, The Crisis (2019), a gridded, sixteen-foot tall yellow pyramidal steel sculpture is set within one of Storm King’s native grass fields. The work is titled after Harold Cruse’s 1967 study, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, an influential volume from the Civil Rights movement, but also references current events. Johnson has said the title “talks about the time we’re living in. When I was making this work, there was so much talk about a ‘crisis at the border’—there’s something so critical and odd about employing that language. We are in a moment of peril and fear.”

The sculptural presentation is activated and accompanied on occasion during Storm King’s 2021 season by performances of Johnson’s 2019 ballet, The Hikers, which he conceived with choreographer Claudia Schreier in Aspen, Colorado. Johnson and Schreier will adapt The Hikers specifically for Storm King’s vast landscape. The Hikers follows the path of two solo hikers, both African American: first alone, and then upon seeing the other—an encounter that brings tension, but also relief and wonder. As Johnson has said, “The body is filled with adrenaline. How does the black body function in space when it’s being witnessed, versus when it’s not? It’s about how the body becomes accustomed to the conditions of stress and anxiety.”