Bust of a Moor, by John Van Nost, is one of the oldest works to be continuously held by the Royal Collection at Kensington Palace in London. Commissioned around 1689, its gleaming layers of colored marble surprise and delight with their careful detail and blatant bling. But the Moor’s name is not known: a caption on the Royal Collection’s website simply states that “Black servants were frequently found in noble households” and that “this figure has traditionally been identified as a favorite personal servant of William III.” In his elegant and moving installation Call and Responses: the Odyssey of the Moor, artist Graeme Mortimer Evelyn worked to restore the Moor’s lost individuality. Using simple yet effective means—including a nine-foot steel birdcage and a hand-carved narrative tile sequence—he challenged the viewer to imagine this man’s history and contemplate his subjective position. Evelyn’s ability to mix the contemporary with the historical in such acts of reconstructive storytelling, to respond sensitively yet provocatively to built environments, is impressive. It is time for someone to give him a public, possibly art-specific site in London or New York, where a wider audience could have access to his work.
Research Article|November 01 2014
Surviving the Seventeenth Century: Graeme Mortimer Evelyn’s Call and Responses: The Odyssey of the Moor
NJ Hynes is a poet, editor, art writer, and occasional curator living and working in London. Her collection The Department of Emotional Projections, winner of the inaugural Live Canon First Collection prize, was published in July 2014.
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Nka (2014) 2014 (35): 84-91.
NJ Hynes; Surviving the Seventeenth Century: Graeme Mortimer Evelyn’s Call and Responses: The Odyssey of the Moor. Nka 1 November 2014; 2014 (35): 84–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-2827877
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