The Best Art of 2019: Where Knowledge and Beauty Meet
By: Karen Wilkin
“Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott” started its tour of U.S. museums at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, where it can be seen through Jan. 12, 2020. We watch him finding his voice, painting in Europe, California and Egypt, then bursting out with the satiric riffs on racism, on tainted representations of fellow African-Americans, on politics, and on art history that established his reputation. We’re thrown off balance by the uneasy coexistence of Colescott’s lush paint handling, expressive drawing, rich color, and often brutal subject matter. We’re attracted by the vital paint and gesture, then realize we’re looking at a fierce skewering of stereotypes: Aunt Jemima as a babe, Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in the rural South, Shirley Temple as a black child. Colescott seduces us with paint, sandbags us with unpleasant truths, and makes us think.