Renee Cox (Afrofuturism)

I have struggled in finding things that are Afrofuturistic, because I think like many people I find it difficult to pin down an exact definition of this topic (shout out to one of my classmates posts from last week) yet as Professor Lytton Smith has suggested (please excuse any inaccuracy in my paraphrasing) Afrofuturism is an ever-evolving area of study, thought, art, etc  thus its definition is surely frequently being altered and added to.

That all being said, I have discovered an artist, photographer, political activist and feminism her name is Renee Cox. I believe that she would be a great artist for our class to investigate. In particular, I found her series of pieces entitled “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” to be of interest for several reasons, namely that we are reading Langston Hugh’s poem “Ask Your Mama”, I’m not sure if Renee intended the shout out but the similarity in the two titles caught my eye. “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” is a serial reimagining of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” done in five parts. The artist herself is posed as Jesus Christ, the disciples are all depicted as black men and Judas is the only white man present. I believe it would be an interesting piece to explore in the light of Afrofuturism because of the feministic and racial themes. It speaks to me of a future in which there are many more religious figures and famous works of art that depicts people of all sexes, genders, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Mark Dery posited the question (whilst discussing Afrofuturism), “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Mark Dery, Black to the Future (1994, p. 180). I believe that Renee Cox’s “Yo Mama’s Last Super”, addressed Mark Dery’s question. I believe that based simply on said piece that Renee’s response would be; “hell yes!”.


2 Replies to “Renee Cox (Afrofuturism)”

  1. I kind of struggled to pin down what I even thought I could consider Afrofuturist as well. The painting you talked about sounds really interesting, and it seems like it plays a lot on the idea of imagining a world where black culture not only dominates, but still exists in juxtaposition with white culture, specifically embodied in the image of Judas as the only white guy at the Last Supper. I think this also fits really well with some things I’ve seen about Lemonade and Black Panther communicating how feminism and the empowerment of black women play crucial roles in Afrofuturism.

  2. Great find, Lael! And interesting because of the ways it brings in the kinds of intersectionality we’ve discussed, something I see modeled not just in the gender presentation of the figures here (the re-casting of Christ in particular) but also in the use of sections formally to make the painting less of a “whole” than the Da Vinci. There’s a kind of “cut” involved in that choice.

    This also makes me think of how it would help to think through Hamilton as an Afrofuturist work. One question would be whether a rewriting of history can be futurist (it can but isn’t always). Is Hamilton a rewriting of history? In that it reimagines an impossible past in ways that are clearly commenting on the present (meta- and paratextual references to Obama; the line immigrants…we get the job done”) it does begin to work in Afrofuturist contexts, too…

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