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Titus Kaphar: The Jerome Project (My Loss)

Titus Kaphar (American, born 1976) The Jerome Project (My Loss), 2014. Oil, gold leaf, and tar on wood panel, each 7612 x 5912 x 334 in. (194.3 × 151.1 × 9.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2015.7a–b. © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, 2015

Titus Kaphar: The Jerome Project (My Loss)

Titus Kaphar (American, born 1976) The Jerome Project (My Loss), 2014. Oil, gold leaf, and tar on wood panel, each 7612 x 5912 x 334 in. (194.3 × 151.1 × 9.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2015.7a–b. © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, 2015

John Ahearn: Titi in Window

John Ahearn (American, born 1951) with Rigoverto Torrès (Puerto Rican, born 1980). Titi in Window, 1986–87. Oil on reinforced polyadam, 72 × 30 × 12 in. (182.9 × 76.2 × 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Cheryl and Henry Welt in memory of Abraham Joseph Welt, 87.194.1. © John Ahearn. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Titi in Window is part of a series of works completed by John Ahearn and his collaborator, Rigoberto Torres, in the Longwood neighborhood of the South Bronx. Starting in 1979 and continuing throughout the 1980s, a time when this community was struggling economically and socially, Ahearn and Torres created plaster castings of their neighbors and friends. The two sculptors would often cast their subjects on the sidewalk, and then display the finished busts publicly on walls in the neighborhood.

Fred Wilson: Grey Area (Brown version)

Fred Wilson (American, born 1954). Grey Area (Brown Version), 1993. Paint, plaster, and wood; five busts, each: 1834 x 9 × 13 in. (47.6 × 22.9 × 33 cm); overall: 20 × 84 in. (50.8 × 213.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of William K. Jacobs, Jr., and bequest of Richard J. Kempe, by exchange, 2008.6a–j. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis and Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Fred Wilson often appropriates art objects to explore issues of race, gender, class, politics, and aesthetics. Made up of five portrait heads of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, Grey Area (Brown Version) refers to one of the most copied works of ancient civilization. The otherwise identical plaster effigies, which he purchased and painted, illustrate a value scale ranging in color from oatmeal to dark chocolate. Thus, Wilson raises, but does not answer, controversial questions about the racial identity of ancient Egyptians.

In both his provocative, groundbreaking installations in cultural institutions and in his studio work, Wilson encourages viewers to recognize how changes in context create changes in meaning. He has said of his practice, “I use beauty as a way of helping people to receive difficult or upsetting ideas. The topical issues are merely a vehicle for making one aware of one’s own perceptual shift—which is the real thrill.”

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: The Root

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (British, born Ghana, 1977). The Root, 2011. Oil on canvas, 74716 x 7834 in. (189 × 200 cm). Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, L2014.5. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and Corvi-Mora, London. © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

El Anatsui: Black Block

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944). Black Block, 2010. Aluminum and copper wire, two pieces, each: 207 × 13312 in., 67 lb. (525.8 × 339.1 cm, 30.39kg). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of William K. Jacobs, Jr., by exchange, 2013.7a, b. © El Anatsui. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Converting found materials into a unique medium between sculpture and painting, El Anatsui combines diverse aesthetic traditions from Ghana, Nigeria, and the global history of abstraction. Working with discarded metal bottle caps collected from a liquor distillery, Anatsui modifies this unremarkable everyday material, chosen for both its physical qualities and its bodily connection to the original consumer, to make vast, undulating sheets.

Anatsui’s sheets are pieced together and hung without prescribed orientation, taking on new shapes with each installation. This “non-fixed form,” as the artist calls it, is emblematic of Anatsui’s desire for his work to remain dynamic, inspiring creativity in those who install it and illustrating the ever-changing conditions of life. In Black Block, Anatsui uses only one color (though the black is broken up by flashes of red and yellow) and only one type of metal piece across a monumental expanse of some 15,000 elements.

Theaster Gates: In Case of Race Riot II

Theaster Gates (American, born 1973). In Case of Race Riot II, 2011. Wood, metal, and hoses, 32 × 25 × 6 in. (81.3 × 63.5 × 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchase gift of Jill and Jay Bernstein, 2011.9. © Theaster Gates. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Part of a series that features lengths of decommissioned fire hoses, In Case of Race Riot II exemplifies Theaster Gates’s practice of civic responsibility and social engagement. The work alludes to the Civil Rights Movement and, in particular, the use of high-pressure water hoses on peaceful African American demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. However, the possibility of future use of the fire hose, as suggested by the title, questions an easy acceptance of this tumultuous era of American history and points to the ongoing struggles for African Americans’ civil rights.

Hank Willis Thomas: Liberty

Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976). Liberty, 2015, from the Punctum series. Fiberglass, with chameleon auto paint finish, 35 × 10 × 10 in. (88.9 × 25.4 × 25.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist and Jack Shainman in honor of Arnold Lehman, 2015.57a, b. © Hank Willis Thomas. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

In Liberty, Hank Willis Thomas renders a two-dimensional image as a three-dimensional sculpture. The original photograph appeared in Life Magazine in 1986 and featured a Harlem Globetrotter in front of the Statue of Liberty, spinning a basketball on his finger. Interested in popular culture, photographic history, and sports as a metaphor for individual and collective struggle, Thomas created a life-size sculpture of the moment by casting the arm of retired NBA All-Star Juwan Howard.

Liberty is part of Thomas’s Punctum series, which draws inspiration from the French philosopher Roland Barthes’s idea of the punctum: that “element which rises from the [photographic] scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces.” Using this concept as his foundation, Thomas selects a specific area of an image and re-presents it as sculpture. Through cropping and isolation, he encourages us to contemplate framing itself: what is left in or out of a photograph, narrative, or account of a historical event, and why?

Eldzier Cortor: Lady with Foliage II

Eldzier Cortor (American, born 1916). Lady with Foliage II, n.d. Mezzotint, 22 × 1814 in. (55.9 × 46.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Eldzier Cortor in memory of Sophia Cortor, 2012.81.10. © Eldzier Cortor. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Deana Lawson: Hellshire Beach Towel with Flies

Deana Lawson (American, born 1979). Hellshire Beach Towel with Flies, 2013. Pigmented inkjet print, sheet: 35 × 4458 in. (88.9 × 113.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL, in honor of Arnold Lehman, 2015.17. © Deana Lawson

Shooting primarily in the United States and the Caribbean, Deana Lawson is inspired by the expression and aesthetics of black cultures worldwide. Using a large-format camera, and working across a variety of photographic traditions—including portraiture, staged scenes, found or appropriated imagery, and vernacular photography such as family albums—she addresses themes of the body, sensuality, community, and spirituality, among others. Her photographs can be seen as psychological portraits of black subjects in an extended, mythological diasporic family—even when, as in Hellshire Beach Towel with Flies, the body has departed the frame, leaving only a worn pink towel.

Lorna Simpson: Backdrops Circa 1940's

Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960). Backdrops Circa 1940’s, 1998. Screenprint on felt panels, sheet (each half of diptych): 2618 x 1634 in. (66.4 × 42.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Karen McCready and Jean-Yves Noblet in honor of Roy Eddey, 1999.61a–b. © Lorna Simpson (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

In this work, Lorna Simpson pairs two found 1940s images of black women posed against stylized theatrical backdrops. The photographs are printed on felt, giving them a rich tonality and dimensionality.

On the left, an anonymous woman, accessorized and coiffed for her session, is pictured in a photographer’s studio. On the right, Simpson presents a heavily cropped image of the singer, dancer, and actress Lena Horne in the 1943 movie musical I Dood It. This juxtaposition highlights differences and similarities between the experiences of these two women, one famous and one unknown. The meaning of the work is purposely ambiguous. Perhaps Simpson is encouraging the viewer to reflect on representations of black women, both historical and contemporary, and female agency and autonomy.

Regina Monfort: Stanley at Blueberry Park, Marcy Houses, Brooklyn, NY, March 1996

Regina Monfort (French, born 1958). Stanley at Blueberry Park, Marcy Houses, Brooklyn, NY, March 1996, 1998. Gelatin silver photograph, 16 × 2618 in. (40.6 × 66.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist, 2000.90. © Regina Monfort. (Photo: Christine Grant, Brooklyn Museum)

I See Myself in You: Selections from the Collection

August 26, 2015–February 26, 2017

The human body has occupied a significant place in the imaginations of artists, from our earliest ancestors to today. Central to how we understand and locate ourselves both individually and collectively, the body is a site of commonality and of conflict, of belonging and of difference.

The works on view in I See Myself in You: Selections from the Collection show real and imagined bodies, sometimes in fragments and sometimes whole, and sometimes just the elusive trace of a human presence. In works ranging from plaster reproductions of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti to painted likenesses of a female artist assuming the appearance of Pop art icon Andy Warhol to photographs of 1990s-era Brooklynites, the stories they call forth are shaped by history, current events, and place, as well as the sights and sounds of daily life.

I See Myself in You demonstrates our continuing commitment to living artists and to collecting distinctive art of our time, highlighting both recent acquisitions and works that have entered our collection over the past five decades. In collecting contemporary art, we focus primarily on the twenty-first century, during which time Brooklyn has become one of the most vibrant centers of cultural production in the world.

The exhibition is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, and Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.

The generous support of the John and Barbara Vogelstein Contemporary Acquisitions Challenge has made possible many recent additions to the collection featured in I See Myself in You: Selections from the Collection. This exhibition was also made possible in part with support from the FUNd.

The creation of the contemporary galleries was made possible in part through support provided by the New York City Council through the efforts of council member Bill de Blasio.