A Johnson Publishing Story

Thursday, Jun 28 – Sep 30, 2018 5 – 8 pm

6760 S. Stony Island Avenue
Chicago (60649)

Opening Reception June 28, 5-8 pm



JUNE 28, 6-7 pm

Theaster Gates will be in conversation with Linda Johnson Rice discussing the stewardship, preservation and promotion of Black excellence, from 6–7 pm.


As part of Art Design Chicago, a year-long celebration of Chicago’s art and design history spearheaded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, Rebuild Foundation presents A Johnson Publishing Story, organized by artist Theaster Gates and on view at the Stony Island Arts Bank.

Founded in Chicago in 1942, the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) held dominance over the African American publishing and media landscape for many decades with publications Ebony and Jet and the nationally syndicated TV show Ebony/Jet Showcase. A Johnson Publishing Story will examine the role of the JPC in defining and disseminating a black aesthetic and culture to national and international audiences in the mid-20th century.

The exhibition will spotlight materials from the Johnson Publishing Archive, which features more than 15,000 items donated to Rebuild Foundation by JPC including books, periodicals, ephemera, paintings, and sculpture. The archive also includes original furnishings and interior design elements custom-designed for JPC’s downtown Chicago offices by Arthur Elrod. Known as the Ebony/Jet Building, designed by John W. Moutoussamy and now a designated Chicago Landmark, the offices at 820 South Michigan Avenue. opened their doors in 1972 with 11 floors of individually decorated private offices, work areas, and entertainment spaces. During the exhibition, Stony Island Arts Bank will be transformed, with the second floor Johnson Library becoming “The Johnson,” a small lounge and reading room reflecting the design sensibilities of JPC and Eunice and John Johnson, and the third floor exhibiting photography.

Responses to the Johnson Publishing Archive by contemporary artists on display in the exhibition will highlight the ongoing relevance of JPC’s legacy in American culture. A book will be produced to detail JPC’s rise to prominence as the largest African American-owned publishing firm in the United States. Together, these project components will demonstrate JPC’s influence on popular conceptions of Black identity and culture, in and beyond Chicago.