Amy Sherald plumbs the multitude of black leisure in The great American fact, a series of arresting portraits currently on display at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. From a woman resting on a bike to two surfers preparing for the water, the oil paintings observe moments of calm and pleasure on a monumental scale, sometimes stretching almost two meters in diameter.
Although she surrounds her subjects with vivid spots of color and portrays them in light-colored clothes, Sherald (before) continues to render the skin of its subjects in its characteristic gray level that it is described in recent years as a way of making the characters “universally read where they could become part of the mainstream art-historical narrative”. This new series also features elements that represent American culture, including a white picket fence, a Barbie t-shirt, and a retro convertible.
The title of the collection is based on the work of Anna Julia Cooper, an educator who wrote in 1892 A southern voice from a southern black woman. In the classic black feminist text, Cooper described blacks as “the great American fact”; the one objective reality on which scholars sharpened their minds and on which orators and statesmen fired their eloquence. “This understanding structures Sherald’s work and provides a guide for looking at the“ public blackness, ”especially as the Georgia-born artist depicts characters with a rich personal life full of ease, relaxation and joy. If much of black life has historically focused on dealing with injustices and social problems, Sherald’s inward turn offers a nuanced view of her subjects.
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