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© Jeff Sonhouse. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.


Artist: Jeff Sonhouse (American, born 1968)
Culture: American
Date: 2010
Medium: Mixed media on canvas
82 x 76 1/4 inches (208.3 x 193.7 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Label Text:Jeff Sonhouse explores black masculinity through fantastical portraits of masked, nattily dressed African American men. The mask hides the identity of his subject and undermines traditional portraiture, but reveals the eyes, nose and mouth, which are most closely associated with racial stereotypes. Sonhouse's confrontational figures are a spoof on stereotypes, and also have a spiritual presence, acting as both oracle and trickster.

Sonhouse regularly uses combustible materials such as matches and charcoal, which speak to the fragility of representation and demonstrate the artist's dry wit, suggesting that the entire composition could go up in flames. Piano wire and wood scraps extend well beyond the canvas as if to blur the line between painting and sculpture. The swirling piano that breaks apart in the background acts as a metaphor for the parallels between musical and visual composition building. In these ways Decompositioning functions as commentary on the act of painting itself.

Object number: 2010.15.1