Two Artists take on Race and Gender

By Seth Freed Wessler Sep 10, 2008

Kehinde Wiley, 2005 Ghada Amer’s “Love Has no End” on display at the Brooklyn Museum, and Kehinde Wiley’s “The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar” at the Studio Museum in Harlem each ask many questions but they are both interested in the question of racial and gender identities as they strike up against artistic form; form that is already drenched in whiteness and maleness. Amer, an Egyptian American artist, speaks of gender and post-9-11 racial identity. Her work self-consciously draws on the influence of artists including Joseph Albers and Jackson Pollock. But the presence of these men’s art in her’s allows Amer’s embroidered pornographic imagery and chilling juxtaposition of Disney Princesses with pornography to speak directly of exclusion and violence. Amer’s work is an act of self-definition that speaks to and through forms that have not previously been hers to use. Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition is another installment of his widely acclaimed series of portraits of Black men. Painted with immaculate attention to detail, the canvasses mimic 19th century portraits of important white men painted by other white men for the purpose of making the former important white men look more important. Wiley’s art plays with ideas of stature, Blackness and masculinity. Through the use of a form from which Black people have been excluded, this act of art is in dialogue with a history of recognized by way of non recognition. Go see both shows.