National Gallery West is featuring a new series of photographs and a video by Renee Cox, titled Sacred Geometry, and shown as part of the 2014 Jamaica Biennial. Renee Cox is a New York-based photographer and mixed media artist who is known for her seminal and at times controversial presentation of Afrofuturistic photography to the art world. She has also worked as a fashion photographer in Paris and New York.
Cox was born in Jamaica and moved to New York where she received a degree in Film Studies at Syracuse University. She has been featured in many museum exhibitions including the Spelman Museum of Fine Art (2013), the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2008), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke (2006), the Brooklyn Museum (2001), the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (1996), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1993), to name a few. Cox’s work was recently featured in the book and exhibition Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography, the exhibition as part of the Contact Photography Festival 2014 in Toronto, Canada.
Finding the inspiration for her work from her own life experiences, Renee Cox has used her own body in her photographs to represent her criticisms of society and to celebrate and empower women. Arguably her best known work is Yo Mama’s Last Supper, in which she recreated Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper by featuring her nude self, sitting in for Jesus Christ and surrounded by all black disciples. When shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 2001, Yo Mama’s Last Supper incurred the wrath of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and religious leaders in New York City but the work is now regarded as a classic example of contemporary photography and it has been referenced in scholarly publications and lectures around the world.
In 2006 Cox exhibited her series Queen Nanny of the Maroons at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Biennial, where it was awarded the Aaron Matalon Award. The series drew from Cox’s Jamaican heritage and Cox took on the persona of a female resistance leader from the plantation period, Nanny of the Maroons, and other related female figures. One of the photographs from the Queen Nanny of the Maroons, Red Coat is now represented in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s collection and it has also has travelled to museums as part of the Caribbean: Crossroads of the World exhibition, including the Perez Art Museum Miami (2014), and the Studio Museum in Harlem (2012).
The Jamaica Biennial 2014 features a selection from Cox’s latest body of work, Sacred Geometry, which consists of digitally manipulated black and white portraits that display self-similar patterns. They are executed with precision, creating sculptural kaleidoscopes of the human body while exploring the power of symbols as elements of collective imagination. The inspiration for Cox’s new work comes from fractals, a mathematical concept centuries old and used by many ancient African cultures. Sacred Geometry has also been the result of Cox’s embrace of the digital world. Bridging the gap between the old and new technology has brought on new challenges and endless possibilities.