This is “The King”, from 1993, one of the classic “chalkboard” drawings by the African American artist Gary Simmons, now on view in a little retrospective at Metro Pictures in New York. It manages to fix our memory of the race-tinged imagery that once was everywhere in American culture, while its blurrings also suggest that imagery’s evanescence. What’s always kept cryptic is whether Simmons’s school chalkboards are about teaching us, now, to remember and regret, or about how we were once taught to treat race. I also love the notion that Simmons own art might be subject to erasure – although, as art-world commodities, his chalk drawings always get treated for permanence.
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