Finally, they pull out the big guns:
The invitation for his show at the Menil Collection, "Insistent Objects: David Levinthal's 'Blackface,'" featured a photograph of a blackface figurine.
In the art world, a host of contemporary African-American artists have been appropriating racist imagery for their own devices.
I assumed Levinthal was one of them. A talk was in progress when I got to the exhibition's opening. Discussing the work were a Menil curator and a man who began talking about how he shot the photographs.
As he was speaking, it dawned on me that this was Levinthal -- a balding, middle-aged white guy. I'd received a catalog of the photographs in the exhibition the day of the opening and briefly flipped through it before heading to the show. Myriad blackface figures were included, representing a pantheon of grinning racist caricatures -- mammies, Uncle Toms, bartenders, porters, bellhops, cooks, little kids eating watermelon, natives -- with huge red lips and bulging white eyes emerging from coal-black skin.
Each was beautifully lit but straightforwardly shot against a dark background. There didn't seem to be any commentary in the photographs. I thought it was weird, but brief first impressions are often wrong. The work might make more sense in the actual show.
Through May 7 But hanging on the walls, the photographs reaffirmed my first impression. They just seemed like an artful documentation of a collection of racist artifacts. The lush, selective focus of the giant Polaroids reminded me of food photography; the photos seemed more like a display of technical expertise than a conceptual decision.
I didn't get why anyone would address this subject matter in this way, let alone a white guy. Many of Levinthal's photographs were taken of objects from the Menil's wide-ranging collection. Some are currently on display in the Menil's library. The figurines, among other objects, are part of the museum's scholarly project "The Image of the Black in Western Art.
Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia, on September 23, His father, Bailey Robinson, was a mechanic and a handyman, and his mother Aretha, stacked boards in a sawmill. When Charles was and infant his parents moved to Greenville, Florida.4/4(1). Read the latest stories about LIFE on Time. Canada Michael Ray Charles Art and The African American society Ray Charles, Notable Black American Men TOWARD A MORE WORLDLY WORLD SERIES: READING GAME THREE OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP AND DAVID WONG LOUIE'S "WARMING TRENDS" Impact of african american baseball players.
African-American artists such as Fred Wilson have used these kinds of figurines in their own work. In one piece, Wilson took a 19th-century photograph of a black family and then recomposed the arrangement of people using a racist tchotchke in the place of each family member. He contrasted the reality with an assembly of white-constructed stereotypes.
In video works, he has smashed mammy figurines with a baseball bat. But using this kind of imagery has been highly controversial for some.
Artists such as Michael Ray Charles and Kara Walker manipulate the racist imagery they mimic, but they have been accused of glorifying the racist depictions they appropriate.
So how does a white artist end up making work with blackface figurines? I doubt Levinthal is a racist or that his goal is to glorify racist imagery.
Looking at his past work www. Levinthal has a long history of making lush photographs of toys and figurines many people would consider offensive -- from Nazi soldiers to pornographic statuettes of women.
His earliest series of photographs, Hitler Moves Eaststaged World War II scenes using toys and shot them in grainy black-and-white so they felt almost like archival images.
Levinthal's series of naked women seems almost real at first. The huge plastic breasts aren't that far off in their unreality from giant silicone ones, and the soft focus imparts a misty soft-core-porn quality. Levinthal has a fascination with toys and kitsch, and in other series, he focuses on cowboys and Indians, Barbie and baseball figurines.
For each series of photographs, he arranges the figures in groups or stages them with environments and backdrops. In contrast to many of Levinthal's other works, the blackface figures aren't manipulated. While for other series, Levinthal built tiny sets, staged scenes, arranged the figures or shot them from dramatic angles, this series -- although it has lush lighting and selective focus -- has less of a point of view.
As opposed to his other works, "Blackface" reads like a documentation of the objects. If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.Michael Ray Charles was born in in Lafayette, Louisiana.
In college, he studied advertising design and illustration, and eventually moved into painting, his preferred medium. In the leslutinsduphoenix.com article, “Michael Ray Charles: When Racist Art Was Commercial Art,” Steven Heller writes: “Critics have attacked the artist for resurrecting images that were long ago hidden from view, ignored by historians as a sad chapter in the continuum of a burgeoning nation.
Optic black, in other words, is performative and deliberately exhibitionist What is at stake, then, is not simply the performance of demeaning images for purposes of subversion—what is often referred to as the ‘reversal of the stereotype’ or, as Manthia Diawara, commenting on the art of Michael Ray Charles, Kara Walker, and David.
Canada Michael Ray Charles Art and The African American society Ray Charles, Notable Black American Men TOWARD A MORE WORLDLY WORLD SERIES: READING GAME THREE OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP AND DAVID WONG LOUIE'S "WARMING TRENDS" Impact of african american baseball players.
Reviews, essays, books and the arts: the leading international weekly for literary culture. Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia, on September 23, His father, Bailey Robinson, was a mechanic and a handyman, and his mother Aretha, stacked boards in a sawmill.
When Charles was and infant his parents moved to Greenville, Florida.4/4(1).