New Yorker: Robert Colescott

March 8, 2019

Peter Schjeldahl

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The first New York show of the exuberantly provocative African-American painter since his death, in 2009, at the age of eighty-three, is as startling as ever. Blazing acrylics and sumptuous drawings narrate themes of interracial sex or of sex, period. One of his personae, a crow, peeps in through purple curtains at a white siren disrobing in a room on whose pink wall is inscribed “in a secluded round ay voo.” A scantily clad, blond beauty queen preens in front of a grisaille storyboard of an imaginary, riotous porn flick. In “Out of Africa” (1971), Dr. Albert Schweitzer meets Tarzan in a jungle as Jane is served tea by a black attendant. If you opted to be offended by the show, the artist wouldn’t have been in the least surprised; but you might have to stop smiling first. Hilarity was Colescott’s sword, shield, and best revenge.

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