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Collection Spotlight: Robert Colescott’s Feeling His Oats, 1988

February 8, 2017

Robert Colescott (American, 1925–2009). Feeling His Oats, 1988. Acrylic on canvas, 90 x 114 inches (228.6 x 289.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2000 (2000:11). © Estate of Robert Colescott.

In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating works currently on view by African American artists, including Robert Colescott’s Feeling His Oats, 1988.

With its loud colors and teeming but tight compositional structure, Feeling His Oats embodies Robert Colescott’s ability to incite social commentary through visual narrative. Tackling themes such as sex, politics, and race, Colescott did not shy away from social taboos in his art. This painting depicts a man who seems to be enjoying the luxurious life. He is surrounded by his material possessions, such as a car and money. However, he is not alone. Several recognizable figures fill the scene. Stereotyped caricatures of the black athlete and a “Mammy” figure are given prominence. Two well-known cultural icons—the Quaker Oats man and Superman—appear on a much smaller scale and, unusually, are rendered as black. Both humorous and provocative, Colescott prompts viewers to consider the history and meaning of these stereotypes and the tensions they may create in contemporary society.