Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott


Featuring approximately forty paintings, this exhibition highlights the sixty-year-long career of one of America’s most adventurous and subversive artists.

Cover Image:

George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975. Acrylic on canvas, 78 1/2 × 98 1/4 in. (199.4 × 249.6 cm). Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles, 2021.45.1. © 2022 The Robert H. Colescott Separate Property Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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The bold and richly rendered works of Robert Colescott (1925–2009) 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 Carver 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. It is organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. The presentation at the New Museum is coordinated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Curator.

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“Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott” is organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH.

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.

The exhibition was also 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.

Generous support for the presentation at the New Museum is provided by:
Tim Blum
Jeff Poe
Adam Lindemann

Additional support is provided by:
Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer

Education and community programs are supported, in part, by the American Chai Trust.

Thanks to Rashid Johnson and Sheree Hovsepian, and Raymond Learsy.

Special thanks to Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

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