new-york

Lezley Saar

David Beitzel Gallery

The nightmarishly fascinating thing about race is that it’s at once real and unreal, social fact and anthropological nonentity. In the US, of course, the issue of race is everywhere, and yet the art world generally fails to reflect that fact. So it is perhaps natural that Lezley Saar, an artist of both African American and white ancestry, should feel compelled to take on questions of race and history in her mixed-media paintings. Certainly no one would accuse Saar of tiptoeing. Her show is entitled “Africans, Tragic Mulattos, Anomalies, and Rap,” and compared with the sort of subtlety found in the work of, say, David Hammons or Ellen Gallagher, Saar is a bull in the racial china shop.

Tale of the Tragic Mulatto, 1999, depicts the genealogical tree of two women presumably, given the title, of interracial descent. Antiquarian book covers form the painting’s support, and the various images

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