Press Release

Portraying Power and Identity: A Global Perspective, Opens at 21c Durham September 14, 2018

Durham, NC
PDF icon Download PDF (462.52 KB)
Download PDF to read the full Press Release >


Contemporary Portraiture Exhibition Examines Global Representations of Social, Cultural and Political Power, Featuring 40 Artists including; Kehinde Wiley, Anthony Goicolea, Titus Kaphar,and Zanele Muholi

21c Museum will present Portraying Power and Identity: A Global Perspective, a group exhibition opening at 21c Durham on September 14. Featuring 40 artists, the exhibition reveals the intersection between contemporary portraiture and depictions of social, cultural, and political power. To mark the opening of the exhibition, 21c Durham will host a cocktail reception on September 14 from 6 - 9 p.m. with remarks by 21c Chief Curator and Museum Director Alice Gray Stites, and a discussion with featured artist Anthony Goicolea. This exhibition and event are free, and open to the public.

Including sculpture, painting, photography, works on paper, video, and installation, Portraying Power and Identity showcases the range and complexity of human experience from a selection of artists from around the world. Individual and group identity, and the forces that shape how we see self and other, are approached through direct references to noted works from art history, connecting past events to current issues. Nandipha Mntambo, uses casts of her own body to create the three cowhide torsos that comprise Ode to the Silence, which echo in form and color the classical Winged Victory of Samothrace (200-190 BCE), transforming the Hellenistic figure of heroism into a contemporary vision of female strength. Miguel Ángel Rojas’s series of photographs of a young, Colombian soldier posing as Michelangelo’s David (1501-04 CE), present a victim of war, a young man maimed by violence. Rojas considers his artwork a form of justice: by chronicling this moment in history, he illuminates the costs and casualties of drugs and violence in his native Colombia.Ori Gersht’sFalling Bird replicates the composition of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s A Mallard Drake Hanging on a Wall and a Seville Orange (1728-1730 CE). While the sharpness and slow motion of the film at times approximates an oil painting, his deceptively alluring still life invokes destruction and loss. Born and raised in Israel, Gersht grew up acutely aware of the persistent threat of violence.

“The traditional genres of art history are evolving and intersecting, addressing a broad spectrum of subject matter. From the complexities of the formation of identity, to the political, social, and economic forces shaping the world today, contemporary art is increasingly fluid,” said Alice Gray Stites, 21c’s Chief Curator and Museum Director. “These visionary artists create aesthetically and conceptually engaging work that may inspire insights into how we might share a progressive future worldwide.”

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Anthony Goicolea’s Portrait in Negative of a Boy with Harmonica as Madame Gautreau, based on an old photograph of himself, and created in homage to John Singer Sargent’s infamous Portrait of Madame X (1884 CE). Though evocative of Sargent’s compositional style, Goicolea’s figure also resembles a photograph, as the figure is drawn in the negative, such that light areas appear dark and vice versa.
  • Titus Kaphar’s The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XXV and Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, are both composite portraits of African-American men and boys who were either incarcerated or killed by police or vigilante violence. The layering causes a visual blurring; the contours and features of one person bleed into the next; multiple people become indistinguishable.
  • Zanele Muholi’s photographs, Zukiswa Gaca, Mukhaza, Khayelitsha and Nomonde Mbusi, portray strong, unique identities as representatives of the LGBTQI community in South Africa. These portraits, part of Muholi’s ongoing series Faces and Phases, are part of her mission to “rewrite black queer and trans visual history of South Africa, for the world to know our resistance and existence.”
  • Anastasia Taylor-Lind’s seriesMaidan: Portraits from the Black Square, are photographs of Ukrainian men and women that are both stunning portraits and evidence of a political moment that claimed the lives of over one hundred protesters in early 2014.

Additional artists featured in Portraying Power and Identity includeTaylor Baldwin, Angel Delgado, Elena Dorfman, Marc Fromm, Ori Gersht, Pierre Gonnord, Alex Hernández, Pieter Hugo, Gabriel Lester, Miguel Ángel Rojas, Christian Schoeler, Mikhael Subotzky, Hank Willis Thomas, José Toirac,Bill Viola, Ronald Vill’s, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, andMarco Veronese.

21c Museum has exhibitions, programming, and events year-round at their eight locations across the U.S. Their newest property, 21c Kansas City, opened this past July with the inaugural exhibition Refuge. For more details on 21c and for a full list of programming, visit


Read the Release
PDF icon Download PDF (462.52 KB)
Download PDF to read the full Press Release >
Anthony Goicolea (American). Anonymous Self-Portrait, 2017. Graphite, turpentine, and oil paint on Mylar.

Other news about 21c Museum Hotels

Press Release
21c Museum and Speed Art Museum to Present Yinka Shonibare MBE’s The American Library Opening March 30, 2019
19 December 2018
Press Release
21c Museum Durham and the North Carolina Museum of Art Organize Major Solo Exhibition of Contemporary Sculptor Wim Botha
16 November 2018
Press Release
11 October 2018
Press Release
21c Museum Hotels Commissions Ten Artists to Design Billboards across the Country, in Collaboration with For Freedoms 50 State Initiative
28 August 2018
Press Release
OFF-SPRING: New Generations at 21c Lexington Opens August 4
30 July 2018