Paintings are the predominant medium in this show. In order to point to a historical precedent, three beautiful paintings and one charcoal drawing by Robert Colescott hang on the second floor. Colescott is most noted as the first African American with a solo exhibit at the Venice Biennale, (unjustly) late in his career, in 1997. Colescott’s painting Pygmalion (1987) commands attention. In the center, an elderly white male, presumably Pygmalion, surveys the face of a black woman whose chin he is holding. In the words of Ovid: “Pleas’d with his idol, he commends, admires/Adores; and last, the thing ador’d, desires.” Colescott emphasizes that historical myths and images are derived from white perception of the Other, rather than a reflection of black identity. A statue of Venus de Milo is to the left of the couple, and a portrait of Mona Lisa as a black woman hangs over his right shoulder. Colescott reworks the canon of art, swapping the white casts of characters for black and pointing out the racist repertoire of history.
Tori Bush reviews 30 Americans at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans in Daily Serving —> http://bit.ly/1mJfoP4
Image: Robert Colescott. Pygmalion, 1987; acrylic on canvas; 90 x 114 in. Courtesy of CAC & Rubell Family Collection.