Jonathas de Andrade Culled From A 1950s Study About Race and Class in Brazil to Produce a Thought-Provoking Series of Photographs
In the early 1950s, Columbia University, in collaboration with UNESCO, conducted “Race and Class in Rural Brazil,” a study that attempted to establish racial typologies in a country renowned for its racial democracy. Participants were shown photographs of black, white and mixed-race Brazilians, and then interviewed about their perceptions of each subject’s class, attractiveness, intelligence, work ethic and morality based on looks alone.
The study, which was published without the photographs, revealed entrenched prejudices. In Eu, mestiço (Me, mestizo), an exhibition of works by Jonathas de Andrade open at Alexander and Bonin in New York through April 21, 2018, it is revisited in order to reveal what has changed about our perceptions — and what has not — in our contemporary world.
For the exhibition, de Andrade traveled across Brazil, and asked potential sitters to reinterpret the original images based on the text alone. The resulting photographs are printed on material typically used for signboards in Brazil, and displayed in the gallery like life-sized paper dolls alongside a stream of words culled from the study. The result calls into question the viewer’s own racial and class prejudices.
Below is a selection of photographs from the exhibition, along with images of the installation. For more information, visit the gallery’s website.
All images courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.