Grant Wahlquist, Portland (ME)
Christie Neptune’s first presentation outside the U.S, combines photographs, sculpture, and video and concentrates on the project “Unpacking Sameness,” which adopts art-historical tropes and develops formal strategies to examine structural racism, colonization, and the mechanics of representation.
“Unpacking Sameness” was inspired by James Baldwin’s assertion that “[t]he American curtain is color. Color. White men have used this word, this concept, to justify unspeakable crimes, not only in the past, but in the present.” As Baldwin did, Neptune’s work pulls back the cognitive and cultural curtains that prevent privileged groups from perceiving oppression. Her sculpture The “Colorline”™, an abstract representation of systemic racism, is accompanied by a faux policy designed to justify its existence and an instructional manual on how to dismantle it.
“Unpacking Sameness” activates the sculpture in a variety of ways: a tightly-structured video incorporating a public performance activating the sculpture in Brooklyn; lush self-portraits where it serves as a framing device that recalls the illusionism of Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window; studio interiors; and self-portraits modeled on Louis Aggasiz’s 19th Century daguerreotypes of enslaved persons.