V

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Robert Colescott

I Love You Forever, 1993

Woodblock engraving

22" x 14"


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I Love You Forever

In Robert Colescott's I Love You Forever, an African American man and a European American woman gaze into each other's eyes; the caption establishes a narrative, suggesting a relationship between the two. Is this a simple depiction of lovers? Considering the history of race relations and the unconscious assumptions viewers bring to a work of art, this couple's relationship becomes more ambiguous. Colescott plays on viewers' beliefs concerning interracial relations by reinforcing compositionally the hesitant nature of their relationship: The lovers face each other but do not touch. His lithograph forces viewers to confront stereotypes and assumptions about "the black man with the white woman." Even the word "forever," which sounds certain, could be interpreted as a desperate declaration, based upon the societal pressures that work to keep the couple apart. Colescott is well known for his art historical satires and subversions of stereotypes; in I Love You Forever, as in many of his other works, he explores the identities that people assign to others and assume themselves.  J. S.

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