The top three photos are from Kerry James Marshall’s show Dollar for Dollar at Jack Shainman this past fall, and the bottom photos from William Pope.L’s show that was up around this same time at Mitchell-Innes and Nash. (Also, make sure you check out Pope.L’s cool website.) I was thinking about these shows because of my recent post on Rashid Johnson. I got hung up on the term “post-black” a few months back (and actually ended up writing one of my research papers for grad school on Glenn Ligon because of it). In my last post, I wrote about post-black in generational terms. Both Marshall and Pope.L were born in 1955 to Ligon’s 1960, making them of the same generation, prior to Rashid Johnson’s “post-black” work. The immediate implication of that statement being that the work of these artist is about blackness in a direct, intentional way, which, while no doubt true, seems like an unfair simplification of a complex theme.
When Thelma Golden wrote about post-black for the exhibition she curated at the Studio Museum in 2001, I don’t think she meant to imply a post-racial world (which was Time Magazine’s interpretation of her phrase) as much as that a black artist of my generation could make work unlimited by being made by a “black artist.” Maybe, but I don’t think that the Rashid Johnson show displayed that kind of freedom. Don’t get me wrong: I wish we had all moved into Pope.L’s alternate universe of various rainbow-colored people, although certainly without the darker, satirical side of these stereotypes writ large.