Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Robert Colescott

George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware, 1975, Robert Colescott
Auvers-sur-Oise (Crow in the Wheat Field)
1981, Robert Colescott self-portrait.
Sometimes I think we take art waaay too seriously. I try not to in writing about it, injecting levity, satire, irony, and sarcasm whenever appropriate (and probably sometimes when it's not). Yet, I'm likely as guilty as anyone in erring on the serious side. In my own work, I like nothing better than to come up with a humorous title on some ironic twist designed to make the viewer smile if not contemplate the more profound. I guess that's why I like the work of Robert Colescott so much. He not only doesn't take seriously famous art from the past, he tried not to take his own art seriously. Moreover, he tried not to do that for over fifty years. Born in 1925, he died in 2009.
Colored TV, 1977, Robert Colescott
Serving in WW II, Colescott visited Paris, where he first saw many of the art classics he was later to lampoon in his own work. The art bug bit hard. When he returned home, he used the GI Bill to obtained a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkley, then hastened back to Paris, where he studied under Fernand Leger for a year. Then he returned to U.C. to get his master's degree. Over the next fifteen years, he taught painting at several different California universities. He married five times, divorced four times, and fathered five sons. His teaching style was warm, lighthearted, and much beloved by his students. His painting style was satirical, exuberant, comical, yet sometimes bitter as he explored his African-American heritage in his work. He first came to be noticed as a result of his 1975 George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware (top), in which he substituted figures from black history for the first president and his white cohorts. Colescott could be equally insightful when painting his own culture as well, as seen in his 1977 Colored TV (above right).

Eat Dem Taters, 1975, Robert Colescott
Les Demoiselles d'Alabama,
Robert Colescott. He holds his
own with Picasso.
Colescott takes on DeKooniing.
The both do ugly women
quite well.
As any good artist should, once he or she discovers a rich vein of content in which to explore, Colescott followed up with more black version of white paintings, including a takeoff on van Gogh's The Potato Eaters. Colescott called his version Eat Dem Taters (above). He mimicked Gericault's Raft of the Medusa with his own Wreck of the Medusa, and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignonwith his similar painting, Les Demoiselles d'Alabama (above, left). Being a devoted francophile, he painted his own version of Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (below). And, he has twice prove he could paint women just as ugly as Wilhem DeKooning (above, right)...DeKooning's women, that is.

Liberty Leading the People, 1976, Robert Colescott. He signed it "Eugene Dulacrow."


No comments:

Post a Comment