Cincinnati

Robert Colescott, Eat Dem Taters, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 59 × 79".

Robert Colescott, Eat Dem Taters, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 59 × 79".

Robert Colescott

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Robert Colescott, Eat Dem Taters, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 59 × 79".

A DECADE AFTER HIS DEATH, Robert Colescott is still mostly known for his paintings of “the old masters in blackface,” as he once lamented. His pastiches—among them Eat Dem Taters, 1975 (take that, van Gogh!); George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975; and I Gets a Thrill, Too, When I Sees De Koo, 1978, which I had not realized is a pastiche of a pastiche, using the figure of Aunt Jemima to get at de Kooning by way of Mel Ramos—subvert what they pay homage to, substituting black figures for white ones to reimagine historic events and images, even creating, Colescott thought, “a barrier between the viewer and the original work.” The familiarity of the works’ sources lends them obvious intrigue but underplays the artist’s painterly inventiveness, which was vividly illuminated in this Cincinnati retrospective, curated by Lowery Stokes

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