1963 William Christenberry Born: Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1936 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 2016 plastic, satin, wood and felt in plexiglass case 13 3/8 x 8 x 5 in. (33.9 x 20.3 x 12.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Elliot Thompson 1979.121 Not currently on view
Luce Center Quote
“Some people have told me that this subject is not the proper concern . . . of art . . . I hold the position that there are times when an artist must examine and reveal such strange and secret brutality.” William Christenberry, The Washington Post, April 24, 1983
Luce Center Label
Throughout his career, William Christenberry has produced a large group of paintings, sculptures, and dolls to express his abhorrence of the Ku Klux Klan. This doll, a GI Joe figure dressed in the authentic ceremonial robes of the Klan, is one of more than sixty “KKK” dolls that the artist made between 1963 and 1979. During that time, Christenberry’s works triggered arguments about whether they should be censored, and in 1979 someone broke into the artist’s studio, stealing dolls from their cases and other objects, but leaving everything else untouched. The crime was never solved, and Christenberry was unable to return to this subject for some time. He has since expanded the series to include more than 400 objects. His KKK works remain controversial, since some viewers feel that the pieces are in poor taste and glorify the group. However, a Ku Klux Klan member from Georgia also expressed disgust with Christenberry’s works, calling the artist a “nigger lover” (Washington Post, April 24, 1983).
Figure - full length
History - United States - Black History
fabric - satin