Where the Art Is Rashid Johnson is something of a maximalist. The centerpiece of “Islands,” his recent solo show at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, was a pyramid filled with potted palms, bricks of shea butter, books, CB radios, carpets, and grow lamps. His wife, Sheree Hovsepian, is more considered. Her recent work includes elemental bronze sculptures and haunting, minimalist photograms. “I like decisive moments, and Rashid likes to clutter,” says Hovsepian, sitting in the kitchen of the townhouse in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan they moved into about a year ago with their 3-year-old son, Julius. After a fairly extensive renovation, and help from the interior design firm Ashe + Leandro, the house is still a work in progress. “I move stuff around throughout the day,” Johnson admits. In three grand rooms on the parlor floor, the couple’s Brazilian furniture (a racket screen by the Campana brothers, armchairs by Joaquim Tenreiro) mixes with custom built-ins (floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a massive upholstered banquette). The interior boasts original molding, ornately manteled fireplaces, and plenty of art. There are pieces by heavy hitters like Jason Rhoades and Dieter Roth, but also by their friends. “We’ve been fortunate to have traded with a lot of people over the years,” Johnson says. The library table, with its elegantly scarred surface, is a working work of art: Johnson made it as a dining table for their previous apartment.
Making History The couple has designated an awkwardly proportioned space just off of the entry “the black room.” It is hung with works by black artists (Glenn Ligon’s neon Warm Broad Glow, 2005, is above the mantel; to its left is Tony Lewis’s painting People ad Roloc Foo, 2012) as well as an all-black “crash piece” by Brendan Fowler, who is white. The walls of the room were painted black at the suggestion of Ashe + Leandro. Add to that a small work on paper by William Pope.L that reads black people are needy, not to mention a complete set of the newspaper published by the Black Panther Party, and you start to wonder if there isn’t a theme here. “It’s all artists we like, regardless of color,” Johnson insists. There is one white person in particular who looms large in the couple’s imagination: The crown molding in the library includes a portrait of the man Johnson and Hovsepian presume built the house around the turn of the last century. Johnson likes to joke that they should paint his face black too. “This house probably has a lot of stories,” he says. “I’d love to know more. But you know, he probably never expected that there would be a black man and an Iranian woman with a mixed child living here one day.”
Gallery Kitchen The house used to belong to Johnson’s close friend, the artist Jennifer Rubell, who is known for her elaborate food-based installations. Needless to say, she threw a lot of dinner parties. Johnson was well acquainted with the place before he and Hovsepian took it off her hands—and was very much aware that it came equipped with two full kitchens. “We bought it with the intention of entertaining,” he says, adding that their former apartment was a mere 350 square feet. While the house is relatively big, it doesn’t have a lot of blank wall space. So, hanging in one of the kitchens, for now at least, is a painting by Sam Gilliam, which was featured in a show of the Color Field artist’s early work that Johnson curated at Kordansky in 2013. “I love it here,” Hovsepian says of the work’s slightly precarious location. “Julius knows not to touch the art.” And as Johnson points out: “It’s nice for him to grow up with a Sam Gilliam in the kitchen.”
Photos: Artists in Residence
Johnson and Hovsepian, in their Manhattan townhouse. Johnson wears Prada coat; Dries van Noten sweatpants and shoes; Maison Martin Margiela t-shirt. Hovsepian wears Altuzarra top; Max Mara skirt; Gerard Yosca earrings; (from left) Shylee Rose Jewelry ring, Mateo Bijoux ring, Shylee Rose jewelry ring; Aquazzura pumps; her own wedding ring and band.
Johnson’s Plateaus, part of his show “Islands” at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, this fall. Photograph by Fredrik Nilsen.
Hovsepian’s Kore, 2014. Photograph by Martin Parsekian.
Installation view of “Islands.” Photograph by Fredrik Nilsen.
In the living room, a Detonado chair and a racket screen by the Campana brothers, and a gold inflatable butt plug by Paul McCarthy in the corner.
Kris Andrews’s The Shape of Time, 2014.
Djordje Ozbolt’s Gentlemen of Ngongo (4), 2012, hangs in the kitchen.
Johnson’s collection of Black Panther newspapers and a found African mask.
The library, with a table by Johnson and his sculpture Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, 2010, and on the wall (from left) Ellen Gallagher’s Abu Simbel, 2005, and a hand tapestry by Mai-Thu Perret.
William Pope.L’s Black People Are Needy, 2012.
Another view of the library.
Hovsepian’s Sister #1, 2012. Photograph by Martin Parsekian.
Hovsepian and Johnson with their son, Julius. Hovsepian wears Chloe dress; Christopher Kane skirt; Gerard Yosca earrings; Manolo Blahnik shoes. Johnson wears Walter van Beirendonck jacket; Maison Martin Margiela t-shirt; Dries van Noten sweatpants; his own sunglasses, bracelet, and watch.
In the “black room,” from left: Tony Lewis’s People ad Roloc Foo, 2012, and Glenn Ligon’s Warm Broad Glow, 2005.
Julius Johnson’s artworks.
Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are put to good use in the library.
Sam Gilliam’s Helles, 1965, in the kitchen.
Hair By Takeo Suzuki at L & A artist, NY; Makeup by Frank B at The Wall Group.