Works in Colour

Photography by René Peña

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René Peña
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In his use of colour photography, René Peña is no less true to his artistic geist than he is in his working of the black and white image. He resists the enormous lure of colour toward both formative and conceptual imaging. He uses the spectrum to heighten the effects of the sociological statement, so clear in his monochromatic images. In his colour images Peña says that no black man was ever black. Black men are brown. Nigger Brown was the distinctively racist name given to a tanned British shoe polish in the past. It was not called Nigger Black. (But it was common in Britain even up to the 1950s to call one's black dog-- Nigger.) The Cubans, of course had and have about 80 different terms to describe a man by his colour (and by his height, his girth and by other features of his physiognomy.) Although such terms in the Caribbean context are not usually used in an insulting fashion, nevertheless they are used and accepted by both subject and object. But not by René Peña. Years ahead of his time, he makes jest of the black man dissolving into invisibility against various dark sociological backgrounds. He makes jest of darkest Africa with a light-bulb in his face! The white porcelain spout of the tea-set provides the opportunity for guilty fellatio for the barely visible black artist. The blond wig all but wipes away the persona of the black photographer and the two images, above, display a drugged-out, viciously self-infatuated Marilyn, two for the price of one! (Gethin James)