Robert Colescott, 1925-2009
Post #1364 • June 12, 2009, 11:34 AM • 51 Comments
I learned this morning from Artsjournal that Robert Colescott has died. Colescott developed a wild, cartoonish style indebted somewhat to Guston and used it to make mincemeat out of the histories of black-white relations in America. He produced a fair number of insipid scions—Colescott is one of the reasons I can't get excited about Kara Walker—but his legacy deserves better remembrance. He studied with Leger, looked hard at Renaissance painting, and riffed on race and sex by insouciantly packing lumpy figures into large canvases like wallets full of gnocchi.
The New York Times elicited the reason for his artistic success.
When asked if he didn’t feel an obligation to serve “the black community,” Mr. Colescott replied, “The way that one serves is to serve art first,” adding that “the way you serve art is by being true to yourself.”
Richard Lacayo has an appreciation.
I attended an informal talk that Colescott gave to a classroom of RISD students a couple of decades ago, and I remember his affability and consummate lack of pretense. He avuncularly encouraged us all, and I thought of him gratefully thereafter.