he's black enough for me

he's black enough for me, 2008

c-print, 16” x 20“ (H x W)

work disarmed: Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s The Algerian Girl (for Disarmory, dbFoundation)

he's black enough for me (2008), installation at Disarmory, NYC.

March 1 2008

Dear V.,

Issues of place, identity, heritage (ethnic, social, and political) and racial makeup, along with their implicit manifestations of ideas of belonging and acceptability, are all points of interest I try to engage in through my work.  For Disarmory, I chose Renoir’s The Algerian Girl (interestingly, a poor translation of the proper French title, which should properly be translated as The Seated Algerian, feminine) because of the issues which we spoke about earlier and which I will try to summarize here. Renoir, a male painter of a certain era, chose to depict an 'Algerian Girl', perhaps a young Berber or Arab woman from Africa, in the manner of a white European dressed in an Orientalist costume. Reflecting on this led me to think about ideas of ethnicity along with their concomitant notions of social palatability and racial authenticity. This then led to the idea of making a piece which would blatantly ­– even crudely – point to the troubled debate about race we in this country are still struggling with today. As I wrote you earlier, this piece is not precisely about Barack Obama, but I hope it will be seen to probe and reflect some of the issues surrounding the on-going dialogues about African-American heritage. . . although of course there is Obama, with his African and Muslim name, his mixed race, his appeal and non-appeal to audiences, communities, citizens and voters – in short, the issues of his ‘authenticity’ as it relates to his acceptability on the cusp of a significant, potentially momentous, point in time for U.S. politics.