Rajé A Superhero:
The Beginning of a Bold New Era
February 21-March 28, 1998
|Fierce and fabulous once again, Renée Cox is back with a new
selection of photographs at Christinerose Gallery in Chelsea. In RAJÉ:
A Superhero. The Beginning of a New Bold Era, Cox takes up some issues
which she previously addressed in her series, Yo Mama. These large cibachrome
prints present Cox in the guise of RAJÉ, an in-your-face-female superhero
that puts Wonder Woman to shame, honey. Complete with her own 11 1/2 inch
fashion doll and music video, RAJÉ is a state-of-the-art superhero whose
hype is as much about her labors as it is about her image.
In her first one woman show, Renée Cox presents the spectator with highly-saturated glossy images which evoke an aesthetic of magazines and motion pictures. Featuring the artist herself as RAJÉ, we see the action femme featured in various moments of iconic heroism: breaking steel chains in front of an erupting volcano, standing like the 50-foot-woman over a cab in Times Square, poised with two muscular male sidekicks on the globe just above the African continent. Arguably, the show's centerpiece is The Liberation of UB and Lady J. Here, RAJÉ is featured between a young man and woman, both scantily clad, as she pulls them towards safety away from the giant Uncle Ben's converted rice and Aunt Jemima maple syrup labels in the background. The liberation from these servile images is underscored by the contrast of their strong, healthy bodies, viewed full-size, to the always-smiling, fragmented faces on the labels.
(Burning, 1998, Cibachrome)
|Cox uses a Christie doll (Mattel's Black Barbie doll) to create her
own action superhero/fashion doll. Dressed in a miniature version of her
own African-pride uniform which features red, gold, green and black, the
RAJÉ doll is faithful to the original hero, complete with long dreadlocks
woven into her hair.
RAJE emblematizes Cox's agenda, created in visually palatable terms. Subverting both race and gender stereotypes and battling patriarchy and social injustice the world over, RAJÉ is the quintessential superhero. Conceivably, she has come at the end of the 20th century to save the world from such evils as imperialism, machismo, racism, Proposition 187-type ideology, government cuts in education and social programs and the end of affirmative action.
In the wake of Pop Art and the post-Pop Koonsian aesthetic, Cox brings to the table not only the color and kitsch-sensibility of these predecessors but also the contemplative aesthetic of Lorna Simpson, Rotimi Fani-Kayode and even Lyle Ashton Harris, particularly in terms of the body. The rest is pure glam. These slick, color-laden images, their large format and Cox's own powerfully beautiful figure heighten the visual impact of the work, making Cox's politics clear and engaging.
Renée Cox's work has been widely exhibited in such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston among others. This body of work marks her place among the most creative contemporary artists working today.