Noel W Anderson unveils Telfair Museums show, Heavy Is The Crown


In the main entrance of the three spaces of the Jepson Center which presents Noel W Anderson’s provocative and stimulating exhibition “Heavy Is The Crown” hangs an 18-inch tall doll. Entitled “Puppe (self-portrait)”, the very cartoonish brown-skinned plush figurine is placed on the dividing wall slightly higher than eye level. Its multiple meanings and intentional ambiguities are, in many ways, representative of the show as a whole.

“First of all, what a loaded picture,” he said. “It sums up these stereotypes put on black people on the outside.

“But I also love the doll because the way it hangs in the show. He’s hanging in the show on a nail or a hook, and when he’s hanging he kind of has his arms open and his head slumped. Now depending on how I hang it, whether I hang it high or low, [determines] how I hope the viewer will read it.

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“When he’s hanging high… he’s asking for a hug, in a way. But it is also a kind of judgment. He looks down on you, with a strange sinister smile. And if I hang it halfway up, as at eye level, it no longer becomes a kind of eye in the sky watching over us all, it becomes more of a child in embarrassment. That ashamed kid who got his hand in the cookie jar again, and all he does is put his head down and hope for a hug.

“So I thought that the contradiction within this single object kind of explores the contradiction; one, in me and; two, in the work I do. That things are both happy and sad, pleasure and pain, from top to bottom, ”he added.

The title of the exhibition itself (“Heavy Is The Crown”) refers to two “Kings” who embody the dual nature of the artist’s work: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rodney King. Links to their two heirlooms abound in the show, from the three “Escapism” images, which overlay portraits of slain black men and their police killers, to “Kings’ Speech”, which merges the two most famous speeches of the kings in a singular piece of prose made up of letters laser-cut from basketballs.

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But it is perhaps the disturbing “King / zzz” that most strongly captures the interaction between artist and viewer and the contradictory emotions that emerge from the two historical figures. And the piece, a distressed tapestry portrait of the two superimposed men, is positioned in the show so that some viewers may not be quite prepared for the clash: it’s right in front of the toilet exit. .

Noel W Anderson

“My grandmother would never have put the picture of Jesus next to the bathroom, right? Anderson laughed. “And I thought, well, shoot, I’ll put the picture of Jesus next to the bathroom, at least the Jesus I know, who is King Jr.

“And what that does to people, I hope when they go out… whatever relief they’ve gotten in that bathroom space, he’s doubly disturbed when they come out and see this figure. look down this hall. It’s a very loaded picture, I’m glad it’s in there and hope it really messes with people’s understanding, or the stability they seem to have with these figures through pictures.

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Playing with viewers is a theme throughout the exhibition, and as with “Puppe (self-portrait)” and “King / zzz”, the artist often manipulates our experience with works through their placement.

“Haint Lens,” for example, a 1960s police searchlight that Anderson locked away in dirt he collected near his Brooklyn home, hangs in the door jamb or threshold between the area. entrance to the exhibition and the main gallery. An old black folk story tells of how we could potentially spot ghosts by looking around a room from that precise angle, and watching the room in the show effectively mimics that experience, but instead of traditional appearances, we are shown the metaphorical ghosts. that haunt the artist’s life experience.

RIOT, 2015-2021;  Bleach, dye, laser cut leather, starfish on stretched and aged tapestry

Then there is “Molotov”, which places the viewer on either side of a police barricade, with or without authority, with or without access.

The space is painted haint blue as well, but rather than the typical reading of color as a method of keeping spirits out, Anderson uses it to invite ghosts from the past.

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The show’s centerpiece, however, is undoubtedly “Untitled,” a large-scale distressed piece of tapestry suspended in a manner that involves the shape of a crown. The image from the composition is one that may be familiar to sum up, that of a line of Black Panther Party members lined up along a fence, surrounded by police officers with guns.

But, as with much of the show’s work, Anderson once again distorts the information provided to viewers, both through the hooking method itself and through a distortion of the weave he used to construct. the tapestry.

Untitled, 2019;  distressed tapestry;  Telfair Museums, museum purchase with funds provided by the Jack W. Lindsay Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2020.20

“It echoes the structure of a crown, but it also has a bunch of wrinkles and folds so that the whole image is lost in itself,” he explained. “And that’s the metaphor. Because if you think you have access, there are all these things that you just don’t see.

“I think the tricks I try to play in space are basically like traps to get the viewer to realize things on himself. That the power they think they have, they don’t really have. And they don’t even recognize that they sometimes have it, which is associated with the demand for full uptime.

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Despite the difficult nature of the job in “Heavy Is The Crown,” the show overall is both relatable and multidimensional. Each viewer will undoubtedly find their own truths in the exhibition, a result the artist not only welcomes, but expects.

“I hope the exhibit itself is a space where things get gray,” Anderson said. “No longer in black and white, but in disorder. “

Heavy Is The Crown by Noel W Anderson is on view at the Telfair Museums Jepson Center at 207 W. York St. until January 17, 2022. Find it on Instagram @nwandersonart.

Art off the Air is a complement to the radio show “Art on the Air” hosted by Rob Hessler and Gretchen Hilmers. The column can also be found at

The show airs Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah and

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