Kenyon College

Seeing the Light


Robert Colescott
(American, 1925-2009).

Seeing the Light, 1993.
Graphite and acrylic on paper.
41 x 29 1/2 inches.
Gund Gallery Collection; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gund ’63.

Robert Colescott works from a complex repertoire of racial and sexual imagery. Employing narratives that challenge social mores and political correctness, Colescott is known for his figurative style that fully exploits a palette of vibrant colors and distorted forms. Figures become entwined in his gestural brushstrokes, emphasizing the artist’s view of life’s truths as contingent.

Satirizing the idea of revelation, Colescott dangles a solitary, bare lightbulb in the upper left quadrant of the painting. Its yellow light forms a golden halo around the hierarchically scaled head of a white man. The African American figures located in the lower half of the painting look toward the white face as one of them declares “I have seen the light.” Colescott employs parodic language in the charged play between “delight,” “de light,” and “the light” to further subvert a sense of white superiority. Evoking the ‘light’ of God, the illuminated halo is nothing more than mundane, manmade and artificial, much like racism and bigotry.

Jessie Alperin ‘18



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