GRACE JONES: ART AND ARCHITECHTURE OF THE BLACK BODY
Lecture / Slide Presentation at Black Portraitures III Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa Nov. 2017
This presentation is an excerpt from the research I am developing for my book Fade 2 Grey: Androgyny, Style and Art in 80’s Pop Music - where I am writing an essay about Grace Jones. The objective is to examine the aesthetics of her constructed image in commercial media and establish a context for appreciating beauty and physical form, apart from her role as a musician and pop icon.
I’ve been collecting funk, soul and disco records since I was a kid in the 80’s and always loved songs like Pull Up To The Bumper, La Vie En Rose and My Jamaican Guy. Grace’s unique style of deadpan lyrics mixed with an androgynous high fashion appearance always peaked my curiosity. As I matured and took record collecting seriously as an adult, I noticed how interesting she appeared on those album covers. Each stylized image of Grace revealed a new world of vibrant color and bold visual concepts. I had never seen a black woman look like that on an album before. Many covers featured futurist illustration, monochromatic video stills, and abstract depictions of the body – which appeared a bit dark and edgy.
Being an artist and graphic designer…these works really appealed to me and I became curious as to whom the art director was. I also developed questions such as:
Is this how she sees herself? Does this album cover art relate to the music? Is that a man or a woman?