Renee Cox’s New History

USFCAM is currently featuring works from artist Renee Cox as part of the exhibition titled A Family Affair. The exhibition features seven artists, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Hank Willis Thomas, Deborah Willis, Jacolby Satterwhite, Kalup Linzy and Corine Vermeulen, whose works will be displayed August 24 through December 12, 2015. Cox’s works address issues of identity, history, femininity, and race. Within her work, Cox uses her body to upset classical imagery by injecting herself into prominent works of art. Cox has been the recipient of numerous awards such as the Aaron Matalon Award from the National Gallery of Jamaica, a fellowship from the New York Foundation of the Arts, and a residency with the Artist-in-Residence Program at Light Works, Syracuse, NY.

olympiaRenee Cox. Olympia’s Boyz, 2001. archival digital c-print mounted on aluminum. 134 x 168 inches.

As a photographer and mixed media artist she has produced an array of works that challenge stereotypes of gender and race. In Olympia’s Boyz (2001), currently displayed in A Family Affair, Cox reenacts Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1865).

1280px-Edouard_Manet_-_Olympia_-_Google_Art_ProjectEdouard Manet. Olympia, 1863. oil on canvas. 51-1/4 inches x 75 inches.

In Manet’s piece, he displays a nude European prostitute lying on a bed being waited on by a black servant. In Cox’s reenactment she replaces the woman with her own body and the black servant with her biracial sons. At an artist talk hosted by USFCAM, Cox explained she wanted to replay this notable work of art with “empowerment,” having her sons stand as her “protectors,” taking the piece away from the “whory side” and into a “queenly side.” In this piece Cox pushes the boundaries—changing the image of black women in history by using her body as an iconic figure in her art. Cox holds thorough knowledge of African and African-American history, which translates into her art. Her understanding of the image of black identity, and the placement of this identity throughout society, has pushed her to create works that embody a profound reflection of black imagery.

yo mama 01.00_png_srbRenee Cox. Yo Mama’s Last Supper (detail), 1999. photographic montage.

Cox is often noted as one of the most controversial African-American artists of her time. One of her works in particular, Yo Mama’s Last Supper (1999) was surrounded by heated discussion as she recreated Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, highlighting her body as Christ and twelve black males as her disciples. In A Family Affair, though Cox’s work still holds the same audacious message, the works displayed open the audience to an intimate glimpse of her family. Cox’s works add to the rich lineage and exploration of identity all seven artists manifest throughout the exhibition.

Jiesha Stephens
English Undergraduate
USFCAM Intern Writer

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