The Newport Art Museum at 100

By GREG COOK  |  December 12, 2012

James Montford's "Pow Wow Now" installation (through January 6) is a bracing but confusing meditation on race. A brief video appears to feature Montford's face projected onto the back of a woman with text scrolling across a screen behind her saying: "Black is evil . . . Black is gloomy . . . White is free from color." Via headphones, you can make out snippets of Montford incanting "my family is white black Native American," "divorced," "my son," "I had children," "George Washington crossing the Delaware." His voice is so repeated and layered that it's hard to pull sentences out of the fugue. A version of the text appears on the gallery walls, making clear that Montford, the director of the Bannister Gallery at Rhode Island College, and himself black and Native American, is mulling his marriage (now divorced) to a white woman. There's a lot of charged information here, but it needs more orchestration to coalesce.

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