Southern Gothic

A white man wearing a high-collared, richly brocaded jacket slowly rises into the frame; the chiaroscuro lighting and long, high-ceilinged halls conjure a vampire flick set in a faded antebellum mansion. A beautiful black woman swings into view—the camera cuts to the man's hands grasping the flowing fabric of her white gown, and then back to her face which registers shame and anguish. In the mesmerizing 2006 DVD Mammy/Daddy (filmed inside the New-York Historical Society building), the husband-and-wife team of Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry has created a human "topsy-turvy" doll, using the form of this 19th-century biracial toy to capture the uneven power plays between master and slave. Elsewhere, Kerry James Marshall throws the malignancy of race hate into sharp focus by superimposing gold lockets around the faces of three white girls, isolating them as individuals even as they join the jeering crowd in a famous photograph of a dual lynching in Marion, Indiana. Thirty other artists plumb the pathologies of race in America, including the Jamaica-born Renee Cox, who contributes an astonishingly powerful self-portrait as the machete-wielding Queen Nanny—an 18th-century leader of escaped slaves—regally staring down the viewer.


"Infected Landscape"

Queen Nanny: Maroon Series, 2004, by Renee Cox
Robert Miller Gallery, new York
Queen Nanny: Maroon Series, 2004, by Renee Cox

Details

Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
Through January 7, 2007

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