Screaming into the Ether (Primary Title)

Gary Simmons, American, born 1964 (Artist)

Oil and cold wax on canvas
96 ¼ x 72 ¼ in. (244.5 x 183.5 cm)

That hopelessness, that feeling of screaming and not being heard . . . it’s a common feeling felt by a lot of folks. That’s the genesis of where Screaming into the Ether came.” –Gary Simmons

Through an erasure process that is central to his painting method, Simmons blurs early 20th-century cartoon illustrations rooted in racist stereotypes, including those by Looney Tunes and Disney. In applying this visual distortion, Simmons evokes the warped misperceptions historically projected onto Black bodies while rejecting early cartoon animators’ stereotypical and denigrated representations of Blackness.

Here, Simmons depicts the Looney Toons character Bosko, a caricature based on American minstrelsy who was presented throughout American theaters in the 1930s and beyond. Simmons animates him as a protagonist in the ongoing narrative of racial and social strife. His ghostly figure lingers like the residue of so many racist characters in our collective imagination and memory.

Gift of the Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, by exchange, and Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, by exchange
Screaming into the Ether, Metro Pictures Gallery, July 7 – September 19, 2020

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.