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CAC's Colescott Exhibit Considers Race, Gender, Social Inequalities

Photo by Joshua White
Robert Colescott's "1919." © 2019 Estate of Robert Colescott / Artists Rights Society (ARS)"

An exhibit opening Friday at the Contemporary Arts Center explores the career of a painter whose works "have never been more relevant."Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott includes 85 works by Robert Colescott that surface and challenge diversity and racial stereotypes.

"Colescott catches us up short about our 'sacred cow' beliefs, what we think is right, all our prejudices and hidden ideas about people, and he just puts them out there for us to see," says co-curator and art historian Lowery Stokes Sims.

"We're put in this very interesting position where we don't know whether he's just being provocative and putting out his point of view or if he's anticipating what your point of view will be about a certain figure, group of people or historical event and then putting it out with all the ideas you may have about the situation for you to see."

Colescott, who died in 2009, was known for his for works exploring identity and black history. He was, in 1997, the first African American painter to have a solo exhibit at the Venice Biennale. His works hang in prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum.

Art and Race Matters has already earned a Sotheby's Prize for breaking new ground, the CAC says.

Sims says even in these times of social media and non-stop information, Colescott's work continues to have a certain shock value.

"His subject matter can tweak sensibilities because he's so frank about it," says Sims. "But the interesting thing about Colescott is that he's really optimistic in his deconstructions of bourgeois values and he really wants us to think about how we can move past our own prejudices and our own limitations to sort of embrace the outrageous, the satirical and the ironic in his work."

The exhibit runs Sept. 20, 2019 - Jan. 12, 2020. It then travels to Portland, Ore., Chicago and Akron.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.