Isaac Julien (b. 1960) Incognito, 2003 Plaster, urethane foam, urethane plastic, acrylic paint, cloth, and human hair 73 1/4 × 29 1/2 × 19 3/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of the artist and Mr. Melvin Van Peebles 2004.5.24
Isaac Julien is best known for his avant-garde films, which examine race, class, sex, and constructions of masculinity, queer identity, and the Black male body. Incognito, a prop used in Julien’s 16mm film Baltimore (2003), is a life-size incarnation of acclaimed filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, a seminal figure in blaxploitation films. In the film, the real Van Peebles walks the streets of Baltimore and ultimately comes across replicas of Black cultural icons, including himself. The startling discovery prompts questions of celebrity, remembrance, and representation in mainstream culture.