“Wisdom of the past is typically re-evaluated in each generation and re-interpreted or adjusted where deemed desirable in the light of available options and altered circumstances”- Arnold Rubin from African Accumulative Sculpture: Power and Display
Antonio McAfee’s work addresses the complexity of representation. Through appropriating and manipulating portraits, he engages in prescribed views of individuals and rework images to provide an alternate - more layered image and concept of the people depicted. His photographs oscillate between formal considerations (modifying appearances and prints) and imaginary potential (establishing new back stories and roles) for the portraits.
The source of the artist’s current portraits (Counter-Archive Project) is The Exhibition of American Negroes organized by W.E.B. Du Bois, Thomas Calloway, and Historic Black Colleges for the Paris 1900 International Exposition. The exhibition was a photographic, economic, and legislative survey of middle-class black people in Georgia.
Discussing her strong feelings for a photographic portrait of a Native American family, Lucy Lippard presents the phrase ‘intersubjective time’. Despite all the differences between the family, photographer, and her - time (a century), ethnicity, gender, class, & etc. - she was able to develop a personal connection to the family that was rooted in how they were depicted. This urged her to conduct further research, which informed her of the specifics of their lives. This experience - and the quote at the top - are gestures and ideas kept close as Antonio creates work that rests in the past, gets filtered through his experiences and artistic practice, and is shared to an audience to offer something anew.