"Perceptual Drift" by Key Jo Lee

Perceptual Drift Black Art and an Ethics of Looking Key Jo Lee, Christina Sharpe, Erica Moiah James, Robin Coste Lewis

Publication date:
10 May 2022
The Cleveland Museum of Art
160 pages: 305 x 229mm
110 color + b-w illus.

A powerful reframing of the study of Black art and the historical and contemporary status of Black lives

Perceptual Drift offers a new interpretive model drawing on four key works of Black art in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection. In its chapters, leading Black scholars from multiple disciplines deploy materialist approaches to challenge the limits of canonic art history, rooted as it is in social and racial inequities. The opening essay by Key Jo Lee introduces the concept of “perceptual drift”: a means of exploring the matter of Blackness, or Blackness as matter in art and scholarship. Christina Sharpe examines Rho I (1977) by Jack Whitten; Lee explores Lorna Simpson’s Cure/Heal (1992); Robin Coste Lewis analyzes Ellen Gallagher’s Bouffant Pride (2003); and Erica Moiah James considers Simone Leigh’s Las Meninas (2019). This approach seeks to transform how art history is written, introduce readers to complex objects and theoretical frameworks, illuminate meanings and untold histories, and simultaneously celebrate and open new entry points into Black art.

Key Jo Lee is director of academic affairs and associate curator of special projects at the Cleveland Museum of Art.