We were supposed to have only one new exhibit at the Modern to look at this weekend, but thanks to climate change, we’re getting two. Focus: Gary Simmons was originally scheduled to come to Fort Worth last October, but Hurricane Sandy prevented transportation of the works to North Texas, so the show was postponed until now. The New York-based artist is known for his “erasures,” hand-smudged chalk drawings on panels at the start of his career. He eventually started copying that look in other media as well. His works address issues of class and race — one work on display is “Starlite Theater,” a rendering of the sign on Dallas’ racially integrated drive-in theater from the 1950s.
While Simmons’ viewpoint is distinctively African-American, Focus: Yinka Shonibare MBE showcases a British artist of Nigerian descent. (The letters after his name signify the Member of the British Empire honor bestowed on him by the crown.) Shonibare’s most celebrated work are his re-creations of famous portraits from Western art history, only with the figures’ costumes (Victorian dresses and the like) made out of batik with “African” print that’s actually made in Britain or the Netherlands. His work comments on the legacy of colonialism and the intertwined histories of Europe and Africa.
As our nation and our culture continues its fascinating discussion on race, the perspectives of these two black artists who hail from completely different cultures will make the Modern a valuable focal point.