New York

“Yinka Shonibare MBE”

Brooklyn Museum

YINKA SHONIBARE HAS often called himself “the outsider within.” It’s fitting, then, that the entrance to the artist’s midcareer retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in New York was both welcoming and sharply forbidding. Leisure Lady (with Ocelots), 2001, greeted visitors with a life-size Victorian figure whose ostentatiously outstretched arm and splayed fingers seemed to usher us into her dominion. Yet her other hand tautly held the leashes of three barely contained exotic wildcats, suggesting the violence born of the Enlightenment desire to colonize, classify, and tame the natural world. Shonibare has extended this ambiguity to the figure’s racial identity, via his characteristic method of leaving bodies headless, and the woman is clothed in Dutch wax-printed cotton, the artist’s signature material, chosen precisely for its murky origins: It is an “African” textile but was actually created

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