"Challenging the cliché of the artist as hermetic and socially insular, these dialogues explored the motivations and intentions of the participants as well as the impact of real-life events and issues on their lives and art. In the end, Ms. Alba’s project — which recasts the artist’s portrait as a complex reflection of artists and their work — underscores the interplay among persona, politics and aesthetics in much contemporary art.
If the typical celebrity portrait aggrandizes its subject, the photographs in “The Supper Club” give artists of color a place of honor in a mainstream art world that continues to ignore, underestimate or play down their accomplishments. They honor these artists on multiple levels: as icons of originality and brilliance, as interpreters of a changing culture and society, and as role models for people long erased from the history of art. In the end, these vibrant portraits represent their subjects not simply as culturally expressive, but also as embodying the potential of a refreshed and relevant cultural world unencumbered by racism." -- Maurice Berger
Appeared in The New York Times, Lens: Race Stories, April 2, 2019. Race Stories is a continuing exploration of the relationship between race and photographic depictions of race by Maurice Berger. He is a research professor and chief curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This column is an edited excerpt from the author’s essay in “Elia Alba: The Supper Club.”