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Colored Only

Colored Only
signed and dated 'Jammie Holmes 2018' (on the reverse)
acrylic and pastel on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 2018.
Private collection, acquired directly from the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
"Four Black Men, Lost in Thought," T: The New York Times Style Magazine, 5 October 2020.

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Colored Only (2018) is an outstanding example of Jammie Holmes’ (b. 1984) historical and socially charged painting practice and is one of the first figurative paintings that the artist executed in his young career. The artwork draws inspiration from a poignant Gordon Parks photograph titled Drinking Fountains, Mobile, Alabama. Taken in 1956, while Alabama was still a legally segregated state, Parks’ photograph depicts a young black woman in an elegant white dress bending down to drink from a water fountain labelled ‘Colored Only.’ The elegance and poise of the young woman is contrasted with the ugly block letters on the water fountain and thus with the ugliness of segregation itself.

Holmes spoke about this image and its effect on him in a 2020 interview for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. “Something about this image really sparked an interest in me to start exploring figurative work, and my first figurative painting was an interpretation of this photograph. I still love this early work because it was so driven by Parks.” While the painting’s central figure is derived from the Parks’ photograph, Holmes has surrounded her with written phrases and pictographs that are reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s practice. The store front signage and advertisements seen in Parks’ photograph are replaced with words such as “Monticello” and “In God We Trust”. These phrases clue in the viewer to identify the circular outline at the perimeter of the painting as a coin, and thus the dome over the woman’s head is identifiable as Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, which is on the reverse of the nickel. The presence in the founding of America is traced to the 1950s and the struggle for civil rights, and is brought into the present by Holmes’ painting as a reminder that these struggles are still in progress.

“When I paint pictures of Black women, I try to show the power that women hold. …I was raised only by women, and I admire them because they have so much endurance. I’ve seen these Black women go to hell and back, battling for wages, being beaten, and so when I paint them, I want to give them the spotlight they deserve” (J. Holmes).

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