In Amalgam, the spring 2019 exhibition Theaster Gates created for Paris's Palais de Tokyo, the artist focuses on the 1912 evacuation of interracial individuals from the island of Malaga, southeast of Brunswick, Maine. Casts of face masks—including ones in styles recognizable as Bamana, Baule, and Songye, as well as ones that merge features of different genres—appear throughout the exhibition as markers of the African ancestry of Malaga's early-twentieth-century residents. The installation Island Modernity Institute and Department of Tourism shows face masks displayed in cases as well as in and around a cabinet. A neon sign in the cabinet announces, “In the end nothing is pure” (Fig. 1). Gates's statement highlights the absurdity of wanting to assure racial purity on Malaga or anywhere. Placed in proximity to the casts of face masks, it also serves as a reminder that the use of cultural or ethnic group names to...

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