Looking Forward, Looking Black, in the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver (2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303-871-2846), is a tremendously impressive traveling show that explores the perception of African-Americans in art. Most of the artists are African-American, and many deal specifically with racial identity.

That's certainly true of painter Robert Colescott and photo-artist Carrie Mae Weems, two of the country's biggest names in African-American art. Another nationally known artist in the show is Renée Cox, who helped get the Brooklyn Museum in hot water last year when it displayed her Last Supper work that included a nude self-portrait of Cox standing in for Christ. Some may recall how upset New York mayor and now Peer of the Realm, Rudolph Giuliani, got over that one: He wanted to close the museum.

The two Cox pieces here are also in-your-face compositions, but they don't mix Christianity with sexuality, so I'm sure they'd be okay with Sir Rudolph -- and just about anyone else. "The Liberation of Lady J. and U.B." is a neo-pop extravaganza starring Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Cox; "Hott-en-Tot Venus" is a photo enlargement featuring Cox in profile wearing a bikini made from exaggerated false breasts and buttocks (seen above). Both pieces are very cool, and both make sophisticated observations about race and culture.

This is the first major exhibit presented by Myhren director Shannen Hill, and its theme is appropriate, given her specialties -- contemporary African art and art of the African Diaspora. Check it out before it closes next weekend.


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