Richards worked primarily in bronze, and he cast his own
body for several sculptures, including his 1999, Tar
Baby vs. St. Sebastian (pictured above). That work
memorialized the Tuskegee Airmen... the brave African
American World War II Air Force Pilots who served as a
segregated unit, and who's alma mater subjected Black
men to live experiments with syphilis. Richards portrayed
a Black serviceman as Saint Sebastian (the early
Christian martyr executed by being shot full of arrows),
by showing an Airman pierced by W.W.II fighter planes.
Tuskegee airmen sculpture series
has taken on a strangely prophetic aura since the tragedy
of 9-11. The bronze statue of the valiant pilot pierced
by airplanes could easily serve as a metaphor for the
World Trade Towers... or the artist himself.
untimely death of Michael Richards is only a single sad
story out of thousands, but it's one I find particularly
poignant. African Americans have always been at the forefront
of struggle for social change and justice in America,
and Richards' critical voice exposing American racism
was part of that ongoing effort. That this progressive
Artist's life could be so brutally crushed only serves
to illustrate terrorism's reactionary nature. Terror never
brings liberation... such nihilism can only rob humanity.
The art of Michael Richards will live on in museums, private
collections, and in the memories of the people who encountered
his challenging aesthetics.
visit the Studio Museum of Harlem for more information
on the work
of Michael Richards: www.studiomuseuminharlem.org/richards.html