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House Boy

Otobong Nkanga (b. 1974) House Boy, 2004 Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on paper 12 3/8 × 9 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg 2011.10.15

Working in a range of media, Otobong Nkanga crafts discursive tales, both historical and personal, that are presented by different actors, both human and inanimate. Perfect Measures with Blood Stain is part of a watercolor series that arose out of Perfect Measures, the artist’s complex 2003 installation and durational performance. The work documents gestures and movements from the performance, and its title hints at the failures inherent in Nkanga’s own system of performance, and of human fallibility and fragility. In House Boy, a disjointed body devoid of head or torso engages in multiple household tasks, bringing to mind contemporary issues of human exploitation in the domestic service industry.