[A]rtist Erica Deeman is addressing the complexity of identity and the extent to which a portrait can authentically indicate the character of another person, especially when signifiers of class and wealth are excluded. “Brown” is her portrait series of black men that challenges expectation, the ubiquity of the mugshot and the pseudo-science of physiognomy that was used to justify racism and elevate white European features in the late 1700s.
Commenting on the fact that it’s difficult to find historical imagery, be it in paintings or in photographs, of men, specifically black men, that is positive, “Brown” encourages the viewer to question the implications of character, the impressions we take at “face value” and where these assumptions arise from.
We asked her about how she approached her subjects for this series and the inherent complexity of accurate portraiture.
“Brown” is Erica’s first solo exhibition at at Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco, on display from the 24th March to the 28th April. You can see more of Erica’s work on her website.