A New Model Every Year is set of three images (A New Model Every Year 1955, 1992, and 2014 are all pictured below) that use a Thomas O’Halloran’s black and white photograph taken during the 1958-59 school year in Little Rock, Ar. (Click on the link for more information on the Little Rock Nine and the Lost Year.) The basic living room set up is also the same in all 3 images and is actually a photograph I took of a room in my own house. The image on the TV changes in each as does the artwork on the wall by the TV. The title from the Malcolm X quote, “Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.”
In (Model Year) 1955, the face on the screen is Emmett Till’s and a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat is on the wall. Two youngsters are in front of the television. The taller of the children is from a black and white photograph taken by John T. Bledsoe (original photo) and the smaller kid was hand drawn.
In (Model Year) 1992, Rodney King’s face fills the screen while a corner of Kehinde Wiley‘s Sleep (2008) assumes a spot of honor. The young man standing watching the TV was drawn by me with a sepia-toned fine-line marker and digitally colored.
In (Model Year) 2014, the TV screen is occupied by Tamir Rice and a rough hand-drawn version of The Graduate by Ernie Barnes is displayed. The older man seated in front of the television was hand drawn.
All three of these pieces were created in late 2014/early 2015 after the murder of Tamir Rice. There is quite a bit of mash-up with the time periods of the art work on the wall and the individuals on the TV screens which was intentional – just as it was intentional to use the artwork of notable black artists to decorate the living room. The full image of Wiley’s Sleep invokes black Jesus and Basquiat’s 1981 untitled work shows a man with his hands up while the Barnes picture shows a diploma carrying young man striding towards a future that was denied to Till and Rice. The colors get brighter and richer and cover more of the elements as time progresses but not all of the individuals in the 1955 image make it to 1992 composite. In addition, despite the obvious passage of time as shown by the maturing of the hand drawn male figure the violence perpetuated on black people has not diminished.