Genres are cut up and new materials enter the conversation, unraveling the traditional understanding of portraiture as a singular representation of an individual. By countering old narratives which had long framed the representation of persons of color—of privilege and exclusion, vulnerability and typecasting—the four artists foreground their diverse perspectives and question how identity unfolds.
While cultural and political realities are central elements of the work on view, the artists in Look up here, I’m in heaven create imagery that aims to transcend the here and now to establish a more transcendent sense of self. Although the artists shed physical, temporal markers of identity in their works, they never fully escape the world at hand. In exploring issues of race and representation, the figures portrayed by David Antonio Cruz, Yashua Klos, Tschabalala Self, and Yoon Ji Seon, also seem to be bound up in gazing upon, or imagining a different reality. They aim for a form of transcendence—not quite heaven, but a place where the self can exist on its own terms.