“[Abstract art] messes with you. It convinces you that what you think isn’t all, and it challenges you to understand something that is different.”
– Sam Gilliam
In this new body of work, Tucker plays with the relationship between abstraction and figurative painting. Not necessarily focussing on the line between recognisable object and unidentifiable gesture, but on the ability of both to elicit an emotional connection between the artist and viewer. Her framework is that behind every figurative painting, is an abstraction. Behind every identifiable image is an unnamable essence, and with every action: a reaction.
It’s about holding two things to be true at once, and inviting the viewer to do the same.
Disparities in representation are gaps that can be filled. They’re also abundances that can be destroyed or dispersed. Misrepresentation is another useful tactic. I’m choosing to misrepresent the white body by caricaturing and simplifying it in order to address the relationship between American blackness and whiteness.
This “dis-representation” allows me to paint intimacy and interaction without committing to the Western ritual of rendering white bodies. Instantly, by rendering myself realistically, I become the primary subject.
I am real while the white man is the joke of the painting. It’s a reversal of the minstrel. However, the intimacy with which I interact with the cartoons in the paintings points to a 21st century black American experience of subtle and soft racism in daily life. I operate in the paintings and in life as a marked subject, an outsider. I constantly juggle stereotype threats and here, the white cartoon is simply a stereotype.
A cartoon finger in my mouth is akin to a so-called micro-aggression, and this hug wasn’t always safe. Slavery in America began in 1619, it’s four-hundred years later and I’m in love but it’s hard to forgive you. You didn’t do anything. Yet you benefit. Yet I wade through it. I was taught but I could’ve been told, I could’ve been told or I could’ve remembered.I could have remembered or I could have lived and died in it. I could have lived and died in it but I was taught instead. And you have your mommy read all of your essays for you before you turn them in. It’s complicated. But I love you. I love you three-fifths. It’s a compromise.
A lot of work has been done historically to construct race and Blackness. Today we are seeing the racialization of Whiteness. They created a monster that now seeks to consume them. Gone are the days when Whiteness was neutrality. Gone are the days when life could remain un-raced for Whites and heavily racialized towards and amongst people of color. Today is the day of the “Cis White Man”. Welcome to the club. And you know what? I’ve watched their reactions. And they absolutely hated it. That was what a lot of my work has been about in hindsight. I always wondered if there was an air of cruelty to the way I sometimes tagged my work as a reverse of the minstrel. If I was somehow as bad as them? Now I realize that it was simply equalization I craved. And who can talk shit about equality? Maybe the only way out is to double down.