Robert Hodge 440 Julia Street
Boyd Satellite Gallery
November 2-December 6, 2013
440 Julia Street
Houston-based artist Robert Hodge imbues his work with a sense of social responsibility, tackling themes of gentrification, colonialism, and black (dis)placement in the 21st century. Best known for outdoor installations like The Beauty Box, which transformed an abandoned lot in Houston’s Third Ward into an open-air 1960s-style living room, Hodge brings his brand of socially-minded nostalgia into the gallery with his show at the Boyd Satellite Gallery in New Orleans. At its fore are Hodge’s observations of neighborhood violence and longstanding structures of oppression endemic to New Orleans, which inspired the artist to reflect on continuing stereotypes of black masculinity.
Tapdance—one of the most notable pieces in the brazen exhibition—features a black textured circle stitched around its circumference with blood red thread. In the center, bold white letters spell the word TAPDANCE in all capitals. The word immediately evokes images of minstrelsy that resonate in a city like New Orleans where black entertainers fuel a robust tourist economy. It also encapsulates Hodge’s own interrogation of his role as an African-American man in the art world. In a recent interview, Hodge even went so far as to ask himself outright: “Am I tap dancing?” In varying terms, it’s a question that artists of color have been working through for decades vis-à-vis their often white audiences. And, amongst other sad facts, the recent onslaught of Halloween blackface across the nation proves it’s a question that still needs asking.