Yale School of Art
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Renee Cox, Critic

A deliberate force in the landscape of contemporary American art for the last three decades, Renee Cox is a photographer and mixed media artist. Where the body is concerned, particularly the black woman’s body, Cox’s gaze has remained at a focused intensity, framing her characteristic self-portraits as poignant arguments on race, desire, religion, feminism and visual and cultural aesthetics. One of her more controversial pieces, “Yo Mama’s Last Supper,” recasts Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” with herself as Jesus in fellowship with black disciples, excepting Judas who is white. Cox’s work, in this way, while it can as deftly and astutely look back at or critique the art historical canon, is always more directly aimed at imagining new consciousnesses.

Born in Jamaica before relocating early to New York, Cox studied film at Syracuse University, photography at SVA and participated in the Whitney Independent Study program in 1992. Later, she would move to Paris where she found accomplishment as a fashion photographer, shooting for several high-profile fashion magazines across the years. We have seen Cox’s gaze as the poster for Spike Lee’s iconic film, “School Daze,” but have also seen it represented in a wealth of various museum exhibitions, biennales and gallery shows, and scholars have noted it as seminal to the still emerging genre of Afrofuturism. Her work has been featured at the Perez Art Museum Miami (2014), The Studio Museum in Harlem (2012), the Spelman Museum of Fine Art (2013), the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2008), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke (2006), as a part of the Jamaican Biennale (2006), the Brooklyn Museum (2001), the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (1996), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1993), among others.

Now, turned away from the study of her own body via the self-portrait, Cox’s current work nevertheless re-interrogates the possibilities of portraiture itself in her latest series, “Soul Culture,” a kind of homage to digital culture as much as ancient forms. Deeply informed by the cosmology of sacred geometry, particularly the fractal and its presence among many ancient African societies, “Soul Culture” manifests the human body into fantastic sculptural kaleidoscopes, again urging us toward new, if refracted or repeating, consciousness. “Soul Culture” both tests the precision and versatility of Cox’s technique and imagination, as well as celebrates it. Work from this new series will be part of exhibitions in Miami, Florida & the Columbia Art Museum in South Carolina. Renee Cox resides in New York.

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