Robert Colescott

(1925 – 2009)

Robert Colescott was known for his satirical, politicized paintings and his expressive style. From his beginnings as an abstract artist, Colescott eventually adopted a figurative style, which he used to explore race relations, often in domestic and sexual contexts. Throughout his long and prolific career, his works adhered to a distinctly political, multicultural agenda; his subject matter often distorted or destabilized the visual signifiers of gender and race. During his time in residence at Tamarind, Colescott creates a series of figurative prints addressing interracial relationships and sexual or otherwise intimate encounters.

Colescott served in the US army during World War II before studying painting with Fernand Léger in Paris, France, and earned his MA in painting and drawing at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at colleges and universities around the world such as Portland State University, American University of Cairo, Egypt, American College, Paris; College Art Study Abroad, Paris; California State College; University of California, Berkeley; San Francisco Art Institute; and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

He received numerous grants and awards including an American Research Center Grant, National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Guggenheim Foundation Grant, Roswell Artist’s Residency Grant, and Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Award. In 1988, the City of Houston, Texas, declared December 2 “Robert Colescott Day.” In 1997, he became the first African-American artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Colescott’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.