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Like Lead White, Ivory Black explores questions of race and gender, subverting male traditions of looking at and representing the female body. The paradoxical titles of both paintings are taken from the names of oil paints, implying that the division between black and white is not as clear as the proponents of apartheid believed. The young black woman in Ivory Black wears a diaphanous white garment that seems to simultaneously veil and reveal her body. With her arms held tightly to her sides, she is an ambiguous figure, both guarded and exposed, empowered and captive.

March 2008