Lily Cox-Richard (b. 1979) belongs to a growing movement in contemporary American art that seeks a dialogue with our cultural and artistic past by reaching well beyond the by-now familiar confines of the modern era. Instead she and others explore the aesthetic sophistication and mixed social and moral messaging of the 19th century with admiration and pointed critique. Cox-Richard's recent series of compellingly beautiful and ghostly plasters, titled The Stand (Possessing Powers), doesn't merely reference the work of American Neo-Classical sculptor Hiram Powers (1805–1873). Rather she revisits and remakes his most celebrated figural pieces, including Eve Tempted, Greek Slave, The Last of the Tribes, with painstaking fidelity to the original but for one glaring omission—the figure itself.
For Cox-Richard, the support elements in Powers' full-length allegorical works prove central to their meaning by playing a dual role as both the structural and narrative support. She proposes freeing these elements from the first role to more fully reveal the second. As the artist writes:
I wrestle and reframe the allegories, leaving support systems in place even as I call into question the very things they were intended to support: racialized stereotypes, idealized versions of gender and oversimplified national allegories. Rather than reproduce or erase these problematic figures and their layered histories, I advocate for their complicated presence and renewed visibility.
The results are astonishingly fresh sculptural forms born out of deft hands and art historical rigor. Through these works Lily Cox-Richard uncovers the poignant relevancy of this country's distant past.