Robert Colescott (b. 1925, Oakland, CA; d. 2009, Tucson, AZ) discovered Paris as an American soldier during World War II, and returned to the city in 1949 to study under Fernand Léger. Visiting Paris in 1967, he witnessed the rising social tensions that led to the 1968 riots and the conception of a moral and cultural shift. Colescott produced a series of paintings and drawings in response to the upheaval in Paris and around the world, some of which are displayed here in his first solo presentation in France. Completed in the 1970s, these works demonstrate a confluence of compositional and stylistic elements that came to maturity for Colescott in this decade, as well as his increasing focus on cultural critique. While reaffirming the artist's role as a pioneer for transgressive artists of later generations, these paintings and drawings connect Colescott's practice and vision to the events currently shaping our social landscape, fifty years after they were created.
Over a six-decade career, Colescott established himself as a pillar of contemporary American painting by fearlessly appropriating art historical masterworks; employing bracingly satirical parody and a self-aware view of the male gaze; and confronting issues of chauvinism and sexual misconduct, and tensions surrounding interracial relationships. In 1997, Colescott was honored as the first African American artist to represent the United States with a solo exhibition at the 47th Venice Biennale.