Village Voice – Chief among the unease-provoking contingent is Karon Davis’s Goat, a video of a group of black men and boys slaughtering a goat in what looks to be Dixie backcountry. Accompanied by a voiceover that recalls an episode of Wild Kingdom, the prelude to a family barbecue morphs into ritual savagery. Exfoliation, a photograph by Lyle Ashton Harris, similarly scours the rich ambiguities of black representation. An image of a young black man removing makeup in a public bathroom, it appears to memorialize the aftermath of a drag performance — and turn a white bystander, also pictured, into a total square. Firmly in the radiant camp are two small paintings by Henry Taylor. Both canvases feature bold, flat colors and an on-the-street conceit that would be prosaic were the imagery less outrageous. As it is, Black Boy Pissin’ in a White Man’s Mouth channels a good deal of post-Ferguson animosity.
Art gets a bad rap these days because of all the weird “performance art” type people who put shit on a canvas or walk around in a diaper in a room with strobe lights with a rocking chair in the middle (New York’s hottest new club, Dandy’s). But this one is pretty self explanatory. Black guy is mad at white people after heavy racially charged incidents, he draws a painting of a black guy pissing in a white guy’s mouth. No red dot on a white canvas kind of subtext there (though that kid reaching for something on the shelf without paying attention to the aforementioned mouth pissing seems to require some thought). I enjoy art that looks like something real and clear and this definitely looks like what this painting is. Point blank: This is the best work of art I’ve seen all year.*
And before it gets all racial, yes if the races were reversed this painting probably wouldn’t be able to exist. And that’s kind of fucked up. I’m pretty cool with this painting and I’d even be cool if someone painted my face onto the white guy as a personal attack on me. That’s the one thing art’s supposed to do, take chances and send a message. This painting does that and I really respect it. We should be open to these kinds of things even if they’re uncomfortable for us, regardless of how charged the content may be.
*Full disclosure this is the only work of art I’ve seen all year unless we’re counting looking in the mirror every morning, which we should