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Marlene Dumas Black Jesus Man

cm 65 x 50
South African-born artist Marlene Dumas moved to The Netherlands in 1976, where she studied painting and psychology. Her work, which has always been very politically charged, is distinguished by the centrality given to the human figure. Her subjects are almost never depicted from real life, but are re-workings of photographs and “second-hand” images, which, like film stills, suggest complex interwoven narrative threads and reveal the artist’s interest in painting and a fascination with the pictorial surface. Faces and bodies, depicted partially or in full, generally occupy the whole surface of her works, leaving no space for the background. At the same time, the depicted people gaze out directly at the viewer, reinforcing the narrative tension of the scenes and the bond between the viewer and the represented figure. Raised according to the principles of the Dutch Reformed Church, Dumas often includes biblical allusions in her subjects, as in the case of the "Jesus Serene" (1994) series, or in "Black Jesus Man". In the latter, the artist blends together her work on human features in the depiction of Christ with her exploration of black physiognomy in the "Black Series" (1992), in which the serial matching of different portraits of colored people offers a sample of expressions and faces. "Black Jesus Man" is produced with a mixture of ink, water, and watercolor, which give a shaded, transparent quality to the complexion, conferring on the face particular physiognomic and spiritual qualities according to the idea, frequently reiterated by the artist in interviews, that Jesus is the emblematic figure of the relationship between body and spirit, physicality and spirituality.
On View
I. Bonacossa (ed.), Marlene Dumas, Milan 2006. D. van den Boogerd et al., Marlene Dumas, New York 2009; G. Verzotti (ed.), Marlene Dumas: Sorte, exhibition catalogue (Milan, Fondazione Stelline), Cinisello Balsamo 2012. L. Coelewij, H. Sainsbury, T. Vischer (eds.), Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden, London 2014.
Photo Credits
Foto Roberto Galasso
Legal status
Donation by Claudia Gian Ferrari
Work on Paper
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