“Town and Country” part of “Cover Girl” Series, Iké Udé, 1994
This image is part of Nigerian artist, photographer and designer Iké Udé’s 1994 “Cover Girl” series in which he depicted himself in a variety of roles on the cover of a number of popular magazines. In this image Úde chose “Town & Country” self-described as, “America’s premier lifestyle magazine for the affluent.” In the image, Udé’s face is painted in a pseudo-tribal manner that leaves much of his face white with stripes left unpainted. His clothing contrasts somewhat with his face as he wears a tweed jacket, collared shirt and an ascot clearly referencing the style of a gentleman. Four headlines are printed on the work: “The Noble Savage is Dead”; “What is Art? Experts Disagree”; “Ex-President Admits to Sodomy”; “Investment Tips for the Novice”; and “Yellow Cab & Their Enemies.” The headlines highlight the ridiculous nature of the “newsworthy” magazine articles while at the same time illuminating the subtext that can be easily masked in the representational space of a magazine cover.
As a whole, the Cover Girl series brings to the fore the ways in which magazine covers serve as a political space. As such they purport to be reflective of the mainstream, but as Udé points out, the question of whose mainstream and by what measure such mainstreams are created often results in a deliberate practice of inclusion and exclusion. As Udé writes, ‘“Cover Girl” is neither a metonymy nor an apologue, but an earnest interrogation of institutionalized Caucasian practices of hegemonic right to name first, to colonize, to mis/represent and other exclusionary practices.” The use of magazine covers for such an interrogation remains relevant even as we begin to move away from the medium in popular culture. Thus, Udé’s work draws attention to ways in which concepts such as “mainstream” or “public” exude inclusion while effectively serving as forces of exclusion.
Although we have become increasingly aware on a socio-political level of the ways in which oppression, racism and sexism manifest in areas such as poverty, and education, it is easy to overlook the obvious mechanisms by which such notions continue to circulate. Udé’s work provides a template for continued interrogation by presenting imagery and text that does not explicitly dictate answers, rather it provides a set of contrasts and juxtapositions that bring attention to the form, content and means by which identities are perpetuated, created and must be questioned.
Posted in Identity, Performance, Photography, Pin Board, Race, Self-Portrait, Spectacle, Subversion
Tagged (Re)claiming, conceptual art, Magazines, Mainstream, Mass-media, Representation, Roles, Self/Other
- To See Image Please Visit: http://web.guggenheim.org/exhibitions/picasso/artworks/charnel_house
- “The Charnel House,” Pablo Picasso, 1944-1945
The Charnel House is a 1945 painting by Pablo Picasso. The work, which is unfinished, is rendered using a black and white palette and serves as Picasso’s response to the atrocities of WWII. The work is compositionally similar to Guernica and features similarly grim subject matter depicting a family that has been murdered. Their contorted bodies are piled beneath a dining table. The father lies at the bottom of the pile. His face is abstracted and fractured although one eye appears to stare out at the viewer. His hands, which are bound jut up towards the center of the work. On top and to the left of this figure lies the mother. Her sexuality is emphasized, even in death, as her breasts, rendered in a figure eight-like manner, are central to the work. Her head tilts back and the expression on her face is suggestive of a grotesque ecstasy. Beneath the mother, to the left of her bosom her infant child is visible. The child’s eyes are also closed and his cupped hands appear to be blocking something, perhaps the blood that flows from his mother. The banal depiction of the set table in the upper left hand reinforces the ways in which the war had infiltrated all aspects of life including the homes of innocent civilians.
Picasso painted the work just as reports and images of the Holocaust were circulating in newspapers and film reels. In turn, the grisaille palette of the work as well as the subject matter are evocative of the images Picasso was seeing at the time. In addition The Charnel House was painted just one year after Picasso joined the French Communist party and the overtly political nature of the work is reminiscent of Guernica. However, although The Charnel House bears much in common with Guernica, its unsettled and almost ambiguous nature distinguishes it from the latter. Although he worked on The Charnel House for over six months, the work remains unfinished. This is due in part to the horrific subject matter depicted which seemingly defies pictorial and artistic interpretation. This notion is reinforced by the use of a black-and-white palette, which, as the current Guggenheim exhibit “Picasso in Black and White” illustrates, was a means by which Picasso dealt with particularly complex or difficult subject matter. In the context of this course, this image is indicative of the ways in which artist struggle to depict immense atrocities that simply cannot be rendered in a work of art.
Left: Unidentified Photographer , “Lynching”, ca. 1900
Right: Frank Hudson, “The Avengers of Little Myrtle Vance, and the Villian brought to Justice, ca. 1900