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Rashid Johnson Trades Art with Angel Otero

July 22, 2011

How do artists make a fair exchange of one artwork for another? In this film, artist Rashid Johnson trades a new sculpture with fellow artist Angel Otero, opting for a new painting at Otero’s studio in Ridgewood, Queens. Friends and unabashed fans of each other’s work since they both attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the artists informally discuss the unlikely direction of Otero’s new text-based pieces as well as a few easel-sized paintings.

Otero’s process involves applying thick layers of intensely saturated oil paints, peeling the sculptural “oil skin” off of a glass surface, and loosely draping the result over a canvas. In exchange for the piece Johnson picks, Otero selects a recent Johnson wall-mounted work: an angular wooden shelf piece, also representing a new “funky” direction in Johnson’s work. Johnson and Otero carefully calculate what an appropriate exchange would be at this point in their careers—negotiating market demand for their works and the pragmatics of displaying art in cramped New York apartments—playfully but thoughtfully testing the boundaries of their social and professional friendship.

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Andrew David Watson. Sound: Nick Ravich. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design: Open. Artwork: Rashid Johnson & Angel Otero. Thanks: Alex Ernst & Angel Otero. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Rashid Johnson

Rashid Johnson was born in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, and lives and works in New York. Johnson, who got his start as a photographer, works across media—including video, sculpture, painting, and installation—using a wide variety of materials to address issues of African American identity and history. Invested in the artistic practices of both conceptualism and abstraction, Johnson’s installations frequently include shea butter and black soap, materials that were present throughout his childhood and that carry a particular significance within Afrocentric communities.