Acrylic and collaged photocopies on canvas
Overall: 94 9/16 × 76 1/4in. (240.2 × 193.7 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg in honor of Adam D. Weinberg
Rights and reproductions
© Henry Taylor
Huey Newton (2007) is made of acrylic and collaged photocopies of news articles on canvas. Measuring just over 94 inches tall by about 76 inches wide, this large painting reimagines Blair Stapp’s well-known 1968 seated portrait of Black Panther Party for Self Defense co-founder and Defense Minister, Huey Percy Newton. In Taylor’s image, Newton sits, legs parted, upon a rattan throne facing directly forward and in center view. Moving from the bottom of the painting up, an abstracted zebra print rug lies upon a warm orange brown floor. Black swirls of the rug’s detail blend into the toe box of Newton’s black shoes. Flanking both sides of Newton are leaf-shaped, Zulu-style shields with horizontal markings. One shield is light ochre with umber markings atop a short brown pole while the other shield, a deep chocolate brown with white markings on one side and brown markings on the other, rests on the ground. Back to the center, the brown and black base of the chair blooms out. Each thigh of Newton’s otherwise solid black pants have short stretches of greyish-white strokes with flecks of blue indicating reflected light. Reaching his torso and chest, Newton wears a black jacket and white collar shirt, the paradigmatic uniform of Black Panther Party members. With his arms outstretched, though slightly bent, and resting on the arms of the throne, Newton holds a shotgun by its barrel in his right hand and the shaft of a gold triangle headed spear in his left hand. Upon reaching Newton’s head, the viewer is met with a direct and pointed gaze. He wears the archetypal black beret; a wedge of black afro textured hair peaks through on one side.
The rattan weave composing the broad curved back of the throne in the original photo is substituted with collaged photocopies of news articles documenting the 2006 extrajudicial killing of Sean Bell, a twenty-three year old Black man murdered on the morning of his wedding in Queens, New York. While not all of the text collaged onto the throne is clear, snippets of black text on a grey background shine through: “November 25”, the day of the incident; “said all five officers been charged. Bell who…” the placement of Newton’s head breaks the line, “was black”; “PoPo later searched Bell’s car and found no gun”; and “killed attending his bachelor party.” Continuing with the flurry of text, quick and decided brushwork in white, various greys, and hints of blue outline Newton’s right shoulder and splotch the back of the chair full. Around Newton’s head, light and muted blue-grey shadows portend an aura of depth.
The wall behind the chair is tinted with peach, tan, and similarly neutral hues. Individual brush strokes layer and mount, creating pockets of light, dark, and movement. Though obstructed by the width of the throne’s back, one brown line runs vertically from the top of the painting to the top of the throne and one brown line runs horizontally from the left to right edge.