Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Black Womanhood" at San Diego Museum of Art

The sight of Jamaican-American artist Renée Cox's bare buttocks in her self-portrait "Baby Black" (2001) is an unexpected beginning to an art exhibit. "Baby Black" is a hugely scaled photograph depicting Cox wearing nothing but scarlet-red patent leather pumps and holding a threatening silk black and gray cat-o'-nine-tails while reclining on a lemon-yellow neo-classical couch. Ms. Cox's pose in this photo intentionally echoes that of artist J.A.D. Ingres's famed recumbent and overly romanticized 1814 harem girl painting "Grande Odalisque." While Ingres’s painting projects passivity, Ms. Cox’s photograph projects power. The huge photo's placement in a narrow red-painted corridor is also an intriguing beginning to an exhibition documenting both affirmative and toxically negative representations of black women's bodies.

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