Creative Time

A public platform awaits you with ‘Red Stage’ by Rashid Johnson

May 12th, 2021

Creative Time is pleased to present artist Rashid Johnson’s Red Stage, a participatory steel sculpture that celebrates the vibrancy and creativity found in New York’s public spaces as the city awakens from the COVID-19 pandemic. Red Stage is an open invitation and access point for artists, makers, and passersby to reclaim space through performance and experimentation.
The project will be on view from June 5 – July 4, 2021 on the South Plaza of Astor Place, a nexus point of an exciting, vibrant, and artistic community. Surrounded by historical theaters, meeting halls, and schools, Astor Place inhabitants have been the driving forces behind arts, culture, and political engagement in NYC. The site has long served as an integral place for agitation and insurgency—from the 1849 Astor Place Riot’s violent marker of class inequity to Frederick Douglas’ 1863 Delivery of “The Proclamation and a Negro Army” address at Cooper Union, numerous seeds of revolution have fomented in Astor Place throughout its history, including the Chinese Students Alliance’s dissent against China’s actions in the Sino-Soviet war and the recent 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
“I hope that Red Stage acts as an armature for cultural engagement and catalyst for unexpected conversations. The sculpture will transform through occupation and animation. I am thrilled to see this exchange with the incredible roster of talented individuals that Creative Time has put together, especially as we process this new phase of sharing space together,” said Rashid Johnson.
Throughout June, Red Stage will support the making, improvising, and collaborating of artists and publics as the city builds toward a post-pandemic future. The stage will be brought to life through a set of interventions: Creative Time-organized programs, artist-curated takeovers, and The People Days, three days per week where the stage is open to artists and passersby to activate and occupy however they please. A series of programs will unpack various core functions of public space through one-day thematics including:
Resurgence, a series of opening performances, walks, and interactive making that ground the space in its history and moves towards a public-led future
Assembly, a day of intimate conversations between poets and activists on the public commons post-pandemic
Remedy, defined as “to set right,” this is an opportunity to participate in workshops, reading groups, performances, and sound baths with herbalists, apothecaries, and artists
Call and Response, an evening of protest music to mark Flag Day
Civic Action, a day of civic joy and civic intervention leading up to a historic New York City primary elections
Play, a festive convening of non-stop games from double dutch and dance class, drum lines to mimes, chess to artist-led play
Other highlights will include artist and collective takeovers from legendary QTPOC nightlife collective Papi Juice; award-winning theater director Charlotte Brathwaite; performance artist and activist performer Morgan Bassichis; and many more.
*Schedules to be announced at a later date.
With this project, Creative Time and Rashid Johnson are handing over space to organizers, artists, and individuals, enabling anyone to become a collaborator. Red Stage will be a public-led creative hub where artists and passersby can meet, converse, and even collaborate. In the spirit of foregrounding the public’s use of public space, three days per week will be dedicated to The People’s Days. These days will offer open hours for artists and organizations to perform, rehearse, convene, or utilize the space however they see fit.
“It has been a privilege to witness Rashid create a sculpture as a prompt for public engagement, serving as a collaborator and instigator of sorts. Red Stage presents an exciting opportunity to involve the public in new and interesting ways, interrogate how public space is used, and envision how public spaces can serve our new reality. I cannot wait to see how New Yorkers utilize this platform,” said Creative Time Deputy Director Natasha Logan.
Born out of anxiety from the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson reassesses his approach to sculpture and abstraction with this new work, which seeks to foreground processes of collaboration and creative gathering within the landscape of the city’s public spaces, many of which once belonged to artists, queer people, and people of color. Measuring 30’ wide and 13’ high, the “alarm red” powder-coated metallic frame of the stage references a state of chronic anxiety, a theme the artist has been exploring in his recent “Untitled Anxious Red Drawings” and “Untitled Anxious Red Paintings.”
This summer, as the city works to reopen, the project platforms the possibility for artists and makers of all kinds to form new collaborations and possibilities when communities come together in a time of crisis: there is no barrier to entry, anyone can take the stage and create. The structure is an emergency call for artists and individuals to ask, What new ways of togetherness and experimentation can form in times of crisis? What becomes possible when makers have open access to improvise, experiment, and play together, free from barriers between artist and stage?
Red Stage is one of Johnson’s most ambitious works to date. Known for his mixed-media practice that incorporates a wide-range of everyday materials and objects, such as wax, wood, steel, ceramic tile, books, records, and live plants, Johnson’s work is often associated with his childhood and frequently references collective aspects of African American intellectual history and cultural identity.
Lead project support for Red Stage is provided by Max and Monique Burger, Burger Collection Hong Kong; Molly Gochman; the O’Grady Foundation; and an anonymous donor. The project would not have been possible without site support and collaboration from the NYC Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program (DOT Art) and the Village Alliance.