Télémaque combines historical figures, literary references, and personal imagery. An ancient Venus is portrayed alongside Toussaint Louverture, who led a revolt against slavery and colonial rule in Haiti in the 1790s, and Fidel Castro, the communist leader of the Cuban Revolution. The words at the top left are from Alfred Jarry’s play King Ubu, a satire about a bloodthirsty dictator. Télémaque completed this painting in Paris, where he had moved after becoming disillusioned with New York; the blond heads screaming “STOP,” as well as the work’s pointed title, convey what the artist called the American city’s racist “atmosphere.” These caricatures join other grotesque, cartoon-like imagery in a kaleidoscopic mix that suggests a recurrent history of chaos and senseless violence.
Gallery label from Collection 1940s—1970s, 2019