Iona Rozeal Brown, Sacrifice #2: It Has to Last (after Yoshitoshi’s “Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era”), 2007.
Enamel, acrylic and paper on wooden panel, 52 x 38 inches. Rubell Family Collection, Miami.
iona rozeal brown examines the fluidity of identity and history in her strange, erotic paintings about cultural exchange. Her main subject is the phenomenon of ganguro—translated literally as “black face”—in which Japanese young people appropriate African-American hip-hop style through darkened skin and braided, cornrowed hair. brown’s paintings, which she terms “Afro-Asiatic allegories,” mimic this hybrid identity, combining elements of Japanese woodblock prints with contemporary African-American style and culture. I’m intrigued by the way brown sees cultural signifiers almost as a language, or as elements of music, to be sampled and remixed at will.