Art and Race Matters:
The Career of Robert Colescott
New Museum, New York, NY
Co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Matthew Weseley, and organized by Raphaela Platow
The New Museum is pleased to present the final iteration of the traveling exhibition Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott, the first comprehensive retrospective of one of America’s most adventurous and subversive artists, Robert Colescott.
Colescott’s bold and richly rendered works traverse art history to offer a satirical take on issues of race, beauty, and American culture. Often ahead of his time, Colescott explored the ways in which personal and cultural identities are constructed and enacted through the language and history of painting. This presentation offers a long overdue celebration of Colescott as one of the most consequential artists of his time.
Colescott is perhaps best known for works made during the 1970s in which he reimagined iconic artworks to examine the absence of Black men and women as protagonists in dominant cultural and social narratives. Works like George Washington Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975) offer irreverent parodies of familiar masterpieces, while incisively critiquing America’s often brutally discriminatory past and present. In its complex interplay of high art and vernacular traditions, his work has opened new possibilities for chronicling the history of America while ridiculing its grandiosity and biases.
This groundbreaking exhibition highlights Colescott’s legacy as a standard bearer for figuration in the 1970s, a forerunner of the appropriation strategies of the 1980s, an overlooked contributor to debates around identity politics in the 1990s, and a pioneer in addressing some of the most challenging issues in global culture today.
The New Museum has a long history with the artist, presenting the exhibition Robert Colescott: A Retrospective in 1989.
Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott 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. The presentation at the New Museum is coordinated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, the museum's Kraus Family 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. 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.
Major support of the exhibition has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Richard Rosenthal; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for the research phase of the exhibition and the exhibition itself; and the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation for its support of the catalogue.