About This Artwork

Marlene Dumas
South African, born 1953

Albino, 1986

Oil on canvas
130 x 110 cm (51 1/8 x 43 1/4 in.)

Through prior gift of Mary and Leigh Block, 2002.597

Since the early 1980s, Marlene Dumas has created figurative paintings and ink-wash drawings that raise provocative questions about gender, beauty, sexuality, race, and the resultant conditions of oppression and violence. The artist takes her images from the mass media, particularly newspapers and television, and she manipulates them to achieve her desired effect. Characterized by spontaneous brushwork and a subjective use of color, her works merge art-historical and popular-culture references with private, autobiographical allusions. As a white woman who was raised under Apartheid rule in South Africa, some of her strongest works tackle the complicated themes of racial politics. This representation of a black African albino exposes race as a social construct that fails to correspond to identity. By choosing a subject whose very existence complicates the notion of racial categorization, and by rendering his skin tone and hair color in a sickly green hue, Dumas insisted on destabilizing the division between black and white. This work ultimately questions the ability of both skin color and paint to carry meaning.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 139.

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