Art and Race Matters:
The Career of Robert Colescott
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Matthew Weseley, and organized by Raphaela Platow
Blum & Poe is pleased to join the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in announcing Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott, the first comprehensive retrospective of Robert Colescott, one of America’s most compelling and provocative artists, opening at the Chicago Cultural Center on Saturday, December 4. In his large-scale paintings, Colescott confronted deeply embedded cultural hierarchies involving race, gender and social inequality in America with fearless wit and irony. This exhibition brings together over 50 paintings and works on paper spanning 50 years of Colescott’s prolific career.
“Robert Colescott’s work has never been more relevant,” said Lowery Stokes Sims, co-curator of the exhibition with Matthew Weseley. “He expanded modes of Black representation in art, and questioned aesthetic and social values that have determined the perception of the Black body. His masterful appropriations of art history address the suppression and distortion of the contributions of Black people in world art and history, offer us a means—if we are up to the task—to forthrightly confront issues of identity, social mores, capitalism and colonialism in the current American landscape.”
Art and Race Matters invites a renewed examination of the artist, whose work is still as challenging, provocative and relevant now as it was when he burst onto the art scene over five decades ago. Presenting works from across Colescott’s career, the exhibition traces the progression of his stylistic development and the impact of place on his practice, revealing the diversity and range of his oeuvre: from his adaptations of Bay Area Figuration in the 1950s and 60s, to his signature graphic style of the 1970s, and the dense, painterly figuration of his later work. Art and Race Matters also explores prevalent themes in Colescott’s work, including the complexities of identity, societal standards of beauty, the reality of the American Dream and the role of the artist as arbiter and witness in contemporary life.
Art and Race Matters is co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Matthew Weseley, and organized by Raphaela Platow, the Contemporary Arts Center’s former Alice & Harris Weston Director and Chief Curator. Following its debut at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, OH, the exhibition traveled to the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Sarasota Art Museum, Sarasota, FL; and Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; and will conclude at the New Museum, New York, NY in 2022. The exhibition was awarded a Sotheby's Prize in 2018 in recognition of curatorial excellence and its exploration of an overlooked and under-represented area of art history.
Exhibition programming at the Chicago Cultural Center includes Gallery Talks with Daniel Schulman, DCASE Director of Visual Arts, 12:15-1pm on Wednesday, December 15; Wednesday, February 16; and Wednesday, April 13; and Colescott Night: Comedy and Performances Curated and Hosted by Melissa DuPrey, 6-9:30pm on Monday, December 13. Watch for additional programming in 2022 including a “Streamable Learning” virtual field trip on January 11 at 1pm CST; a conversation with Dr. Richard Powell, Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, in February (date to be announced); and a program with exhibition curator Lowery Stokes Sims in the spring.