Essentialists who believe in the inalterability of racial identity (despite contradictory anthropological findings) will be quick to note the paradox between the title of this review and the title of the show under discussion, and perhaps snicker about the oxymoron. The same innocents decry what they perceive as racism among the 96 percent of blacks who voted for the president, but miss several points in their rush to judgment: 1) there's a difference between racial pride and racial fear; 2) blacks have historically voted across color lines repeatedly; and 3) white fright ruins their attempts at dancing. Will the new Republican National Committee head Michael Steele (who happens to be black) and the old dittohead king Rush Limbaugh (who happens to be white) bring these pallid, blinking troglodytes from their Platonic cave into the new millennium? Education is key, and ignorant complacency and hysteria are no longer options; crack those books, slugabeds, and drill, baby, drill.
The Art of Living Black is a nonjuried exhibition of work by black artists that the Richmond Art Center has been presenting annually since 1996, based on the democratic (and Beuysian) belief of founders Rae Louise Hayward and Jan Hart-Schuyers that creativity transcends job descriptions. (The imagination is not the exclusive birthright of Baudrillardian dandies who have mastered art jive.) Seventy artists are showing 82 pieces here. Among the highlights: Shaun J. Weden's "Obatala, Eleggua Yemaya Inspiration" is an abstraction of overlapping red, white, blue, and black Os; disks, gears, stripes; and triangles that pays homage to the King of the White Cloth (or blank canvas), the gentle Yoruba god of creation and creativity. A proud Havanan with his junkyard dog and still-roadworthy '59 Cadillac is depicted in Michael Johnson's photo "Perro Grande (Big Dog)." "Transplanted Man" is James E. Gayles Jr.'s Identikit-suggestive exploration of shifting identity. Cassandra A. Falby's "Purrr" is a Warhol-meets-Mondrian homage to singer/Catwoman Eartha Kitt. Faux-icon "Holy Face of St. Sambo" by Mark Dukes is replete with a punning account of the Coon Christ's encounter with ten proudly separatist pistol-packing brothers. Virginia Jourdan's grinning ceramic reader "Lyn" has apparently vanquished War and Peace. The Art of Living Black runs through March 14 at Richmond Art Center (2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond). www.TheRAC.org or 510-620-6772.
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