The term “intersectionality” was first coined by legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw in relation to anti-discrimination law as a way of understanding feminism through the lens of race. In the 1980s, its application to cultural production was advanced in fields of critical race theory and ethnic and feminist studies by scholars Evelyn Nakano Glenn and Patricia Hill Collins. Artists who take intersectionality as their focus are interested in the way that different types of discrimination—such as racism, classism, xenophobia, misogyny, or ageism—can converge and impact individuals and groups, and their work explores these complex interactions. In her photographic portraits of LGBT youth, South African photographer Zanele Muholi creates positive images of black queer identity. Exploring the intersection of non-Western subjects and gender, Yasumasa Morimura, a Japanese conceptual photographer, inserts himself into re-creations of iconic works from the history of Western art, often impersonating female figures like Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring to comment on Asian masculinity and globalization in art history. For contemporary portraiture artists like Kehinde Wiley and Mickalene Thomas, the socially charged junction of blackness and masculinity or blackness and femininity, respectively, becomes a site of intervention into historical subjects and codes of representation.

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