Les Nègres | Bringing Back Bowery



Izhar Patkin


Les Nègres | Bringing Back Bowery


2 Cooper Sq New York, NY, 10003


Four figures, outlined in white paint, emerge from the scrawls of black paint inconsistently covering the plywood panels. Three figures are clustered to the left, while one stands alone on the right.

The leftmost figures are a man wearing only trousers, a significantly shorter cherub carrying a harp amidst bubbles,, and a woman who lifts her skirt as if she was mid-dance. The rightmost figure is a woman, mouth agape as if singing while her left hand gestures and right hand grasps at her skirt.

The plywood mural depicts figures from the play "Les Nègres" ("The Blacks"), a work by playwright Jean Genet that was published in 1958 and performed for the first time in 1959. The play is reliant upon the structure of a production within the production itself, exploring Black identity while exposing racial prejudice and stereotypes by shocking and implicating the audience.

Within a note included as preface to the play, Genet describes his concerns with the conditions in which the play would most likely be performed, stating: "This play, written, I repeat, by a white man, is intended for a white audience, but if, which is unlikely, it is ever performed before a black audience, then a white person, male or female, should be invited every evening. The organizer of the show should welcome him formally, dress him in ceremonial costume and lead him to his seat, preferably in the first row of the orchestra. The actors will play for him. A spotlight should be focused upon this symbolic white throughout the performance. But what if no white person accepted? Then let white masks be distributed to the black spectators as they enter the theater. And if the blacks refuse the masks, then let a dummy be used."


Posted by @Bringing_Back_Bowery on Instagram. Caption: "@izharpatkin 's 2 panel mural inspired by Jean Genet's play "Les Nègres" ("The Blacks") which opened in Paris in October 28, 1959."


Artists: Izhar Patkin
Image: @Bringing_Back_Bowery on Instagram


Urban Art Mapping Research Project




Original Format

Painting on plywood



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