Philadelphia

Steven Beyer

The Fabric Workshop and Museum

Steven Beyer’s “Babies” embody a richly layered visual dialogue on the politics of sex, race, and religion. In this installation, Beyer presented six bronze putti—three black and three white. These works are part of a series of ten in which five distinct gestures are realized in both black and white finishes. The extremely formal and exaggeratedly elegant presentation is ultimately ironic, as it serves to establish conventions that the artist questions and undermines. These putti constitute a sharp departure from the Western traditions from which they are drawn, as they all have African-American features. To further confound matters, half of the black babies are painted white, and most are dressed in baby clothes fabricated at the Workshop. The cloth of the christening gown worn by two of the figures bears a printed red pattern after an 18th-century French toile called “Sacrifice of Love.”

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