Newkirk, Kori
U.S. (1970 - )
2002 - 2003
Plastic pony beads, micro braids, and aluminum
Plastic pony beads; Nylon hair extensions; Aluminum
61 x 60 x 1 1/8 in. (154.9 x 152.4 x 2.9 cm) overall
Purchase with funds provided by Rebecca and Alexander Stewart
FA 2003.7

In Empire, Kori Newkirk reimagines the tradition of landscape painting using pony beads and micro braids. For the artist, these materials, associated with African American hair adornment, are a stand-in for the body and symbolically hold space for black bodies within the landscape. Newkirk was first inspired to use these materials after reading media coverage of Venus Williams’ participation in the 1997 US Open that focused on her hair and the other tennis players’ fear of slipping on a bead on the court. The resulting effect of Newkirk’s technique creates a luminous curtain that implies a sense of movement and undercuts certainties of a fixed point of view, challenging viewers to consider received notions of beauty and value, as they apply to cultural traditions and bodies.

Newkirk made this work while in residence at the Henry in 2003, during which time he was looking at and responding to historic paintings by white American and European artists in the Henry collection. The title Empire invokes and subverts the history of such paintings as tools for upholding imperialist viewpoints, claiming an alternative lineage that centers African American experience.

Label copy for The Time. The Place. Contemporary Art from the Collection, November 4, 2017 to March 25, 2018.

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