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Editorial: Features
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“Portraits and Other Likenesses”
Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco
Recommendation by Cherie Louise Turner


Chris Ofili, "Princess of the Posse," 1999, acrylic, collage, glitter, resin, map pins and elephant dung on canvas, 96 x 72". Collection SFMOMA, © Chris Ophili

Continuing through October 11, 2015

“Portraits and Other Likenesses,” which draws from the collection of SFMOMA, is an excellent selection of over fifty works covering a wide variety of mediums — sculpture, collage, multimedia, painting, photography, installation, prints and drawing — also samples genres over a wide swath of time, from early last century to the present. Working with a creative take on the idea of “portrait,” works span from more traditional painted and photographic likenesses of individuals to abstract symbolism. Individual pieces speak to identity, race relations, fashion, politics, social status and power. Artists from around the world are represented; the “portraits” are of people from a number of countries and cultures. Covering two floors, the show manages to hold together tightly and maintain a strong degree of quality consistency, quite a feat given the vast terrain covered.

Among the highlights are early twentieth century black-and-white photographs by James Van Der Zee and P. H. Polk. Chris Ophili’s large and glittery “Princess of the Posse” is propped against a wall near Kara Walker’s even larger graphite and pastel on paper figurative scene “Daylights (after M. B.).” Also of note is Kehinde Wiley’s “Alexander the Great,” a striking, intense and colorful image. Depicting pride and strength is Sargent Johnson’s “Forever Free,” a sculpture of a maternal figure protecting her children — this work was part of SFMOMA’s founding collection and was first on view when the museum opened, in 1934. On the more playful side is one of Nike Cave’s eclectic and fun soundsuits. Among the many other artists whose work should be closely considered are Glenn Ligon, Romare Beardon, Consuelo Kanaga, Mickalene Thomas and David Hammons.


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