“In my world, skin is high-tech, amorphous, and armored,” the artist Stuart Robertson observes. “Blackness is percussive, lustrous, flexible, and indestructible.” Self-Portrait of the Artist depicts a fragment of a man—half of his face and his upper torso—shiny and monumental. A black beard delineates his jaw, and a small gold hoop adorns his ear. Although the figure is cropped beyond recognition, the work’s title provides a clue.
Through the alternation of flat and repoussé aluminum sheets, Robertson achieves a hypnotic effect, a poignant tension playing on what he reveals or hides from us viewers. His refusal to depict his entire face or figure challenges the notion of what a portrait should be and blocks the objectification of the Black male body, so often sexualized in visual culture. Simultaneously, Robertson delivers an irrepressible, resplendent image of that body, one inspired by the aesthetics of Jamaica’s dancehall culture.