Auto Portrait after Rembrandt - a Black man in a wig & baseball cap  2018
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 

Auto Portrait after Rembrandt, a black man in a wig and baseball cap

Auto Portrait after Rembrandt, a black man in a wig and baseball cap are a series of self-portraits using synthetic wigs and baseball caps, Forbes purchased for his Masquerade sculptural work. Whilst waiting for other elements of the sculptural work to come together Forbes started the portraits, in part to challenge himself to wearing the wigs, flashy baseball caps and then to document it with the audacity of showing it.

Forbes places himself in the centre of the images, thereby making a direct link between him and the work he makes - whilst playing with the contradiction the images are separate from him, a trace of his presence, a visual marker that can be created without consequences. He acknowledges the photographic image will be a representation of something beyond him once the image is created.

Forbes explores what is projected on the black body in the images and other work, such as the Mapping the Black Body, an artistic interpretation of a mind map, where he illustrates the different areas of historical association and alignment of the black body.

The image of a black male symbolises many things beyond the individual, which are investigated through the gaze and the adornment of the wigs and baseball caps, but Forbes acknowledges the images may add fuel to the miss readings and interpretations of the subject.  

 

The performance of the gaze is a central feature of the work, which comes under many guises, including photographic gaze, white gaze and black gaze, all of which have their own subjectivity.

Forbes has constructed the image to challenge and confront the viewer by consciously presenting a deadpan face, not smiling and not gesturing.

 

Wigs and weaves have a long history of social, political engagement and degrees of awareness within the African diaspora, but the question of the colonised mind, colonisation and decolonisation are all bubbling under the surface. Whiteness, white supremacy and white beauty are part of the unspoken narrative to the wearing of wigs, which are align to the notion of European aspirational beauty. Forbes is aware there is an extensive dialogue and academic research on politics of hair within the African diaspora, which his work engages with to lesser and greater degree.

A man wearing a wig brings in the question of sexuality, queerness and drag to the work, but for Forbes this plays into his notion of creating a photographic image, whereby he is free of the projected associations.

 

Over the years Forbes has spent a lot of time looking at Rembrandts’ paintings and playful self-portraits, where he ‘dresses for the occasion’ and ‘plays up’ to his audience, which at the time of his paintings, would have been a wealthy European merchant class.

Forbes, he sees Auto Portrait after Rembrandt, a black man in a wig and baseball cap, in many ways as a performance piece, where he like Rembrandt transcends, but fully understands the image he has created.

 

 

Opening a magazine or book, turning on the television set, watching

a film, or looking at photographs in public spaces, we are most likely

to see images of black people that reinforce and reinscribe white

supremacy. Those images may be constructed by white people who

have not divested of racism, or by people of color/black people who

may see the world through the lens of white supremacy-internalized

racism. Clearly, those of us committed to black liberation struggle,

to the freedom and self-determination of all black people, must

face daily the tragic reality that we have collectively made few, if any,

revolutionary interventions in the area of race and representation.

bell hooks[1]

 

[1] hooks, bell, Black Looks race and representation,  page 1,  1992, Turnaround, London.

Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
Photograph on MDF & Plexiglas1.50m x 1.00m 
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Images & Text © 2021 Michael Forbes - All rights reserved.