Behind the Hood: Clintel Steed

22 January - 5 March 2021

Mark Borghi in Sag Harbor is pleased to present new works by New York artist Clintel Steed in Behind the Hood, on view from January 22 - March 5, 2021.


Clintel Steed’s latest series of work is a response to the postponement of Philip Guston Now, the major retrospective of Philip Guston’s work that was set to tour across four major museums beginning in 2021. Guston, a founding figure in the establishment of New York as the center of the global art world, challenged white supremacy in the late 1960s with his paintings depicting Ku Klux Klan imagery. Though his work intended to criticize racism, along with antisemitism, fascism and American society as a whole, the decision to postpone the show was based on concerns that Guston’s message of social and racial justice would be misinterpreted.


Steed joins more than 2,000 artists in opposition, arguing that the decision silences an important conversation to be had about the country’s history with systematic racism. In Behind the Hood, Steed presents 24 figurative paintings—the same number of works that depicted Ku Klux Klan imagery in the Guston exhibition—that reference the prejudice experienced by Black Americans both in the past and present day.


Behind the Hood captures America's racist history from the 19th Century to the present, beginning with the unforgivable lynchings of Black Americans in works such as Rope = Noose? and Entanglement. In Hood Eating Slave Hand, a Klansman devours the hands of Black slaves. Cotton farming, a method of slavery used to exploit Black Americans in the 1800s, is also referenced. Steed completes the series with his narration of modern-day gun violence in Brain-Gun-Hood and Guns and Heads! Despite such graphic subject matter, the saturated color palette and buttery impasto in these paintings result in undoubtedly beautiful forms.  


Growing up in Utah in the 80s and 90s, Steed remembers the presence of white supremacy: “You could go to church on Sunday and feel the blessing of the lord but 48 hours later you could be watching a family member being escorted out by the cops in handcuffs.” His experiences with systematic racism and tragedy as a child, including the fatal shooting of his brother at the hands of law enforcement, have shaped both his identity and artistic practice.