By Key Jo Lee
A powerful reframing of the study of Black art and the historical and contemporary status of Black lives
Perceptual Drift offers a new interpretive model drawing on four key works of Black art in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection. In its chapters, leading Black scholars from multiple disciplines deploy materialist approaches to challenge the limits of canonic art history, rooted as it is in social and racial inequities. The opening essay by Key Jo Lee introduces the concept of “perceptual drift”: a means of exploring the matter of Blackness, or Blackness as matter in art and scholarship. Christina Sharpe examines Rho I (1977) by Jack Whitten; Lee explores Lorna Simpson’s Cure/Heal (1992); Robin Coste Lewis analyzes Ellen Gallagher’s Bouffant Pride (2003); and Erica Moiah James considers Simone Leigh’s Las Meninas (2019). This approach seeks to transform how art history is written, introduce readers to complex objects and theoretical frameworks, illuminate meanings and untold histories, and simultaneously celebrate and open new entry points into Black art.