In this exhibition race and sex are analyzed and expressed in different context, with different meanings and reactions. Race and sex have always been important factor on the perception of identity of one person or more people. The perception of the self or the other.

– La leçon d’amour, Mickalene Thomas, 2008.

In the early ’70s a new social awareness within both feminist and African-American liberation circles of the unique forms of oppression suffered by Black women necessitated that women of color define Black feminism once and for all. Mikalene Thomas nostalgia is presnt on all the details of the photograph, the colors, the patterns, the album. The space-age domestics or mother Africa soul searchers present in this piece are draped over the sofa and swathed in layers of contrasting “exotic” prints—a porn trope as much as it was a fact of ’70s interior design. The two woman portrait seam to live in a realm of sophistication and wealth—the satisfaction of a perfect afro and cocoa-butter skin—contra the grind of civil rights initiatives and struggles that characterize those years. Seventies Blaxploitation films like Cleopatra Jones, with its gun-toting heroine, capitalized on this burgeoning racial pride, problematically merging a miasma of competing interests, most obviously Black power and female lack. There is a complex sexuality of the two models, situated in a wood-paneled setting redolent of a recreation room or a now-dated interior redesign. It is not clear if it is a sexual initiation or simply a sexual relationship between the two. A formerly exploitative gaze becomes the frame for a kind of post-womanist self-consciousness. Thomas is proposing that playful juxtapositions of personal memory and historical example are the constructs of Black beauty.

– African American,Kara Walker ,1998

Known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender and sexuality, Kara Walker unleashes the traditionally proper Victorian medium of the silhouetted figure. In this piece the historical realism of slavery and the fantastical space of the romance novel fuses toghether. The disturbing content is represented by the woman falling and all the white space around her figure.

Walker described the seminude figure as “your essentialist-token slave maiden in midair.”

– At the Moulin Rouge: The Women Dancing, Toulouse Lautrec, 1894

In the work At the Moulin Rouge: The Women Dancing the avant-garde artist steps across the boundaries of “social niceties” as he displays two women embracing each other while waltzing in a café concert. They are holding hands and have their arms wrapped around each other. The focus of the painting is on the open embrace between the women, all the man are in the background and out this world of intimacy. The eroticism of Toulouse-Lautrec’s little painting is deepened not diminished, by its subdued tone. Tenderness and sex are linked in Toulouse-Lautrec’s imagination.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had obtained a backstage pass in the late 1880s to something many men could only dream of having: a private viewing of prostitutes sensually embracing each other. He was deeply moved by their natural intimacy, which influenced him to launch a series of lesbian artwork on the true affairs of these women.

-Young Ladies on the Bank of the Seine, Gustave Courbet, before 1857

The piece exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1857 provoked a scandal caused mainly by Courbet’s choice of subject. He undermined the traditionally accepted portrayal of women within a natural setting by the obvious and deliberate modernity of his city girls. The foreground figure’s display of her undergarments and knowing gaze make her a more shocking subject than if she were depicted nude. The overt, possibly lesbian, eroticism remains palpable; it looks like Courbet depicted the moment after the act of making love.

-Two Nudes ,Picasso,1906

The Two Nudes imagines a love between women as monumental self-reflection.

In the painting we see two nude female figures which however, are not natural. Picasso was trying to preserve the identity of the model; therefore the figures’ faces are still not directed toward us. The model in the right is almost completely hidden whereas the one in the left, by looking directly at the viewers’ eyes, is very seductive and show san attraction towards the hidden woman, This greater seductiveness and therefore sexuality urges the artist to render his model, and therefore his woman, less representational and more unrealistic. The only way to manage this is to distort her face leading however to her ugliness and repelness. Therefore, Picasso’s goal is not to show his models’ unattractiveness or aggressiveness. This depiction means Picasso takes advantage of in order hide his model’s faces, preserve their anonymity and create this sexual tension not showing the desired woman.

-Lesbian Couple at Le monocole, Brassai,1932

It is interesting to notice in this image, how the role in this couple are defined.

How, even being an homosexual couple, looking at the image from distance it is not clear if the woman on the right is a man or a woman. She is wearing a suit and tie as men dressed at the time. It is interesting how the woman on the right is trying to identify herself with men.

– Naomi Campbell: Fruit passion, David LaChapelle,1999

Race, sex and culture are mixed together in this photograph. The afro-American identity of the model is underlined buy her afro-hair and the fruit could refer to African tropical countries.

VB 50, Vanessa Beecroft, 2002

In this Beecroft Performance we get beauty in many styles, through a great number of global identities, she represents almost every continent.

Whenever Beecroft creates a performance she researches the location, often making cultural difference part of her aesthetic arrangement. For VB 50 created for the Sau Paulo Biennial in Brazil. Beecroft chose women of color with a variety of tone to represent Brazil’s various ethnic influences. The African American presentation carries social-historical signifiers that evoke the history of slavery.

Even when the women are united by one ethnic color palette the variation of the human body is evident Beecroft clearly documents a substantial variety of identities. But by only giving the works numbered titles, she is doing little more than making an index or catalog of her selections around the world. Her exact point of view of the combined cultural significance is unknown.

– Lick & Lathe, Janine Antoni, 1993

I wanted to work with the tradition of self-portraiture but also with the classical bust…I had the idea that I would make a replica of myself in chocolate and in soap, and I would feed myself with my self, and wash myself with my self. Both the licking and the bathing are quite gentle and loving acts, but what’s interesting is that I’m slowly erasing myself through the process. So for me it’s about that conflict, that love/hate relationship we have with our physical appearance, and the problem I have with looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘Is that who I am? Janine Antoni

– The Penetrated, Santiago Serra, 2009

– First act: 10 white race men penetrated 10 white race women.

– Last act: 10 black race men penetrated 10 white race men.

October 12th is the National Day of Spain. It used to be called Dia de Raza (Day of the Race) as a celebration of the day Columbus arrived in the Americas, the day Europeans encountered Native Americans. Several countries celebrate October 12th. Over time, however, Día de la Raza took the form in many countries of a counter to Columbus Day. It is used to resist the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and celebrate native races.

On October 12th, 2008, Sierra shot  The Penetrated, a series of photographies and a 45 min video in 8 Acts.

Couples are geometrically arranged into compositions of up to 110 bodies with two colors. The Acts feature the various possible combinations of penetrator / penetrated: white man-white woman, white man-white man, white man-black woman, white man-black man, black man-black woman, black man-black man, black man-white woman, black man-white man. The persons’ faces have been digitally erased to accentuate the modular character of the actors. A mirror set at an angle behind the actors multiplies the couples and the viewpoints.

The current reality of Spain can be applied to the body patterns.

The theoretical structural geometry of the action is echoed in a weave formed by the 10 blankets on which the successive couples are to be placed. The reality of the proposal is expressed when some of the blankets are left empty in those Acts in which the circumstances did not provide the necessary elements/actors to undertake it. For instance, in Act 3 there are only three couples, given that due to police pressure the majority of women did not turn up.

3 thoughts on “RACE-SEX-IDENTITY

  1. I’m so glad you included the Beecroft, Antoni and Serra pieces at the tail end of your curatorial project. Those pieces open up and engage issues of race and gender across color boundaries and effectively interweave the earlier, sexualized white European works with the sexualized race issues addressed in the multiracial contemporary works.

  2. Beecroft’s piece is intriguing. It would be helpful to know a bit more of her own personal view of the work. Without that, it looks like a survey, and I wonder if, when dealing with populations of color, if there is a scale of representation.

    • Apparentley she wanted to d a piece that includes various races. But there is a lot of controversial opinion also on one of her pieces where she is breast feeding two small black child, she said that she wanted to adopt them, then she did’nt do it….she could be using people of different color to express all people in the world of to be “politically correct”. I’ not sure yet witch one is the truth.

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