Artwork Detail

Untitled (Colored People Grid)
American, b. 1953
Thirty-one screen-printed papers and eleven inkjet prints
87 7/8 x 75 3/16 " (overall)
University purchase, Bixby Fund, and with funds from Bunny and Charles Burson, Helen Kornblum, Kim and Bruce Olson, and Barbara Eagleton, 2014
WU 2014.0011 a–pp
Since the 1980s Carrie Mae Weems’s work has thoughtfully engaged with the complex history of black identity and race in America. Untitled (Colored People Grid) consists of monochromatic square panels interspersed with individual portraits of young African American boys and girls that have been altered with overlays of magenta, yellow, burnt orange, blue, brown, and purple. The artist photographed her models at an age, as she describes it, “when issues of race really begin to affect you, at the point of an innocence beginning to be disrupted.” This large-scale work invites multiple interpretations as Weems reclaims a once-pejorative term used to identify African Americans—“colored people”—and turns it into a potential signifier of pride, while also suggesting the breadth of our country’s multifaceted and complex culture. By incorporating a grid format and the repetition of monochromatic panels the artist gives a nod to the history of abstraction as well as Minimalist and Conceptual traditions of the 1960s and 1970s, but she complicates these practices with the inclusion of issues they largely ignored, such as race, class, and gender. [Permanent collection label, 2016]