What is it about fruit that's so fucking sexy? The complex flavor combinations of tangy, tart, and sweet? Maybe it's the wanting of something down to its very core, teeth scraping rind, fishing out fibrous strands from between your back molars. Or perhaps it's the primal feeling of sticky juice running down your chin after a giant bite—God that's hot. Fruit is temptation and desire encapsulated.
Fruit can also be found throughout London-based American artist Clotilde Jiménez's Apple of My Eye exhibition at Jacob Lawrence Gallery. Consisting of collage and charcoal drawings, Jiménez's show explores sexuality, desire, and representation of the queer black masculine body—all with fruit in hand.
Jiménez's dive into collage painting began out of necessity. As a broke art student, he often couldn't afford the supplies he needed to paint, forcing him to co-opt different materials he found on the street or in his house—like sandpaper, burlap, sheets, and images found in free Vice magazines—to create his art.
"I was studying painting, and people would have these dirty cloths. They'd clean their brushes and then throw [the cloth] in the trash, but it had a nice pattern and texture," Jimenez told me. "So I took it out of the trash." He now has the funds to buy more fabric, but this sensibility of culling inspiration from the everyday, and the constant clashing of texture and color, still heavily informs how his pieces come together.
Though this specific project originally came out of Jiménez trying to eat better and surround himself with healthier food, eventually nature's candy took on another meaning for him. "These are all self-portraits, and the work is a way of renegotiating my sexuality as a black Latino," Jiménez said. "And so, fruit. To be a fruit, to eat fruit. What does it mean to be 'fruity'? What does it mean to be 'a fruit'?"
That question is most interestingly explored in Eat the Booty Like Groceries (and before you ask, yes, this is a direct quote of Jhené Aiko's verse in Omarion's 2014 song "Post to Be"). A black male figure composed of both paint and magazine clippings devours a giant slice of watermelon. There's a sense of feverish consumption as the seeds are depicted flying off the piece of fruit, which has historically been used as a racist trope against black Americans as a symbol of laziness and simple-mindedness.
Nestled just below the figure's mouth, a clipping of two peach-colored ass cheeks with the word "butt" alongside it is incorporated into the flesh of the watermelon. Suddenly, the painting shifts to another meaning—not only is this black figure shamelessly eating watermelon, but also giving an enthusiastic rim job. Who knew ass-eating could be portrayed so succulently?
This dual reading of queer black bodies is a constant thread throughout Jiménez's show. In another collage, a banana evokes the racist comparisons between black people and apes, and also serves as a strongly suggestive phallic symbol. Jiménez is forcing viewers to question the ways in which we police queer black bodies with our own prejudices about racist stereotypes and sexual acts.