Talk / Lecture

Kobena Mercer: “Blackness, Flesh, and Vision”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States
17 Sep 2019

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This lecture considers the Guggenheim’s simultaneous presentations of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe as an opportunity to examine cross-cutting entanglements of race, masculinity, and the gaze.

Drawing on the distinction that black feminist theorist Hortense Spillers makes between “flesh” and “the body,” a range of contemporary and historical examples are examined to reveal how intersections of blackness, flesh, and vision circulate at the most intimate level of our erotic lives even as they also erupt in the violence that results in endless cycles of racialized death. With the focal shift in Black Atlantic visual arts from representation to performance, what fresh insights arise with regard to critical perspectives on the black body?

The Hilla Rebay Lectures bring distinguished scholars to the Guggenheim Museum to examine significant issues in the theory, criticism, and history of art. This annual program is made possible through the generosity of the Hilla von Rebay Foundation.

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