In the studio: Devin Troy Strother

Art Talk
November 12, 2019

It doesn’t seem like blackness or being black is what drives the artist’s work. Rather, he describes identity as an inescapability: if he’d choose not to talk about blackness the refusal in itself would still be making a statement. But Strother doesn’t preach, the artist relies on humour to keep topics like race and civil rights from getting “real heavy”.

Together with his girlfriend he runs a little publishing house. The name? Coloured Publishing.

Southern California-native and multidisciplinary artist Devin Troy Strother hasn’t been able to avoid discussing race and its prominent role in American life. As a black kid growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in the 1980’s, Strother had a much different experience with his black identity than generations before him. Strother found that it was nearly impossible to be a black artist and not make work that was interpreted as being about the black experience; so he chose to celebrate black culture with comedy rather than take the more heavy-handed approach of some of the most well-known black American artists such as Kara Walker or Glen Ligon. Strother’s work acknowledges the foundation of “American Culture” in that of African-American performers and entertainers— from Jazz and the blues, to contemporary dance, sports and hiphop. He uses the stereotypes of the black entertainer to regain control of the narrative which often fetishizes black people’s representation. Each artwork is planned like a veteran stand-up comedian – the work itself is the setup for the joke with the title as the punchline. The lengthy often absurd titles have become a signature part of the artist’s practice, supporting his visual vernacular with an additional layer of wit.