A recent work by Skylar Fein titled Black Lincoln for Dooky Chase will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum through August 2011 as the centerpiece of an installation including related works from the permanent collection. In Fein’s 2010 work he overlays a silhouette portrait of Abraham Lincoln on a panel created to resemble an old wall menu from Dooky Chase, a well-known New Orleans Creole and soul food restaurant.
Painted in acrylic on plaster and wood, Fein’s portrait will be displayed alongside such works as an 1871 marble bas-relief profile of Lincoln, early nineteenth-century cut-paper silhouettes by French artist August Edouart, and Kara Walker’s 2005 Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp (from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War).
Skylar Fein, a resident of New Orleans since 2005, believes that Lincoln’s opposition to slavery was shaped by a trip that he took as a teenager to New Orleans, which was then the center of the slave trade. Fein’s use of the silhouette taps into a long visual tradition, examples of which are included in the installation.
The silhouette was popularized in eighteenth-century Europe and soon caught on in the United States. Figures and profile portrait heads were cut from black card and set against a white ground or, in some instances, painted on glass. Evocative of the antebellum period and offering a graphic contrast of black and white the silhouette has inspired explorations of racial issues by contemporary artists such as Fein and Kara Walker.
A native of New York, Skylar Fein (born 1968) was a participant in Prospect.1 New Orleans, the 2008 biennial curated by Dan Cameron. His Remember the Upstair Lounge, a multimedia installation about a disastrous 1973 New Orleans fire at a gay bar that killed thirty-two and injured dozens, received broad critical acclaim. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions, including the 2009 exhibition Skylar Fein: Youth Manifesto at New Orleans Museum of Art, and is represented in public and private collections.
Image: Skylar Fein (American, born 1968). Black Lincoln for Dooky Chase, 2010.