Stylist: Ethel Park
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.
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.”
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.”
Hair By Takeo Suzuki at L & A artist, NY; Makeup by Frank B at The Wall Group.