School of Visual Arts MFA Photography, Video, and Related Media invites you to a celebration of iconic alumni Renee Cox ‘92 in conversation with art historian, Kunbi Oni. As part of our 30-year anniversary programming, Oni will explore the evolution of Cox’s work and what it represents within the greater context of the history of art making in New York City.
b. Colgate, Jamaica. Lives and works in Harlem, and Amagansett, New York
Renee Cox is a visual artist, working foremost in photography, a medium that was traditionally a means by which a reconstructed racial knowledge was created. At its invention, photography enabled the validation of racial classification and racist taxonomies. Colonial society and visual culture were built on hierarchies of power that rendered black women as a social and cultural threat, while pathologizing their sexuality. Renee’s work arises at the intersection of culture, race theory, and sexuality.
Cox works to deconstruct these stereotypes, to challenge the viewer’s preconceived ideas about gender and race. She seeks new and affirming self-representations for black diasporic peoples, as a visual corrective to both art history and history writ large—transforming dispossession into self-possession.
Her new body of work, Soul Culture, consists of digitally manipulated black and white portraits that display self-similar fractal- like patterns. They create sculptural kaleidoscopes of the human body while exploring the power of symbols as elements of collective imagination. Bridging the gap between the old and new technology has brought on new challenges and endless possibilities. The simplicity and connectivity of the fractal concept is meant to engage the viewer in a profoundly different way, bringing a certain peace, reflection and joy.
Kunbi Oni has been teaching Art History for more than 10 years and also works as an Administrator in the General Counsel's office at the Museum of Modern Art. Prior to joining MoMA she worked independently with African artists on solo exhibitions in New York and Lagos, Nigeria.