Marcus Wood

GREAT BLACKS IN WAX & WOOD

THE RUNAWAY SLAVE SERIES

The Great Blacks in Wax Project developed out of my fascination with the museum of that name in Baltimore Maryland.

I ended up working closely with the Director of the Museum Joanne Martin, and with the artists who had helped to form this remarkable experiment in black history.  I made a documentary about the challenging and imginative approaches to slavery, memory and horror which the museum adopted.  I also wrote at length about the museum in academic articles and in chapters in my books The Horrible Gift of Freedom and Black Milk.

The museum also had a big effect on my art work from 2004 -2010.  The slave ship exhibits, the lynching exhibit and the treatment of fugitive slaves all fed into my paintings and installations.  The figure of the runaway slave, from nineteenth century slavery advertisements, fascinated me and I explored his possible significations, and indeed those of the female version over years.

At a certain point I began printing the image by hand over found pages in old newspapers and magazines.  His presence set up strange of often comic resonances.  The woodcut and photographic images reproduced below were used in the final credit sequence of my Great Blacks in Wax film.  I also see them however as a separate series of discreet art works which operate on their own terms.

DRYPOINTS AND WOOD ENGRAVINGS

The big dry-point and woodcut prints I made came from a collaboration between myself and a Brazilian artist.  She left her printing plates behind with me when she returned to Brazil.  I printed a limited edition and then reworked the prints adding figures of the runaway slave.  I made my own wood engraving on boxwood of the slave and put a wooden handle on it so that I could print it almost like a stamp. 

When these two aesthetic worlds collided the effects were very strange.  The result was a meeting of highly refined Brazilian post modernism with one of the most primitive and effective pieces of racist propaganda ever mass produced.  The fact that Brazil was the world's greatest slave trading nation for over two hundred and fifty years always hung in the background of this work.

Marcus Wood, interview on slavery and art  for Video 'Drawing Out 2012'.  One of a series of filmed interviews with artists talking about drawing technique organised by the Artist Stephen Farthing.

© 2018. All images on this website are property of Prof Marcus Wood