John Lucas and Claudia Rankine, Untitled, 2018. Pigment inkjet print. 21 x 28 inches.
Historically, blondness has been a signifier for desirability and beauty. It speaks to “purity” and whiteness—the purity of whiteness—like no other bodily attribute except, perhaps, blue eyes. In the twenty-first century, blondness is the look desired by our American president, pop stars, rappers, television announcers, Hollywood celebrities, the boy next door, and some, though not all, Asian Americans, African Americans, white Americans, Arab Americans, and Latinx Americans, among others. The desirability of blonde hair has no genre boundaries, no pronoun limitation, and no class limit. Whether one is a bottle blonde or regularly goes to the salon, blondness is ubiquitous. The exhibition Stamped engages the quotidian aspirations of Americans who have decided to send themselves into the world of blonde. Their reasons are many—some thoughtful, some ahistorical. Many, however, just want to look good without questioning why blonde is good. Some say the blonde masks their gray and defies aging; others want to be noticed for being different; and still others attach to the age-old equation of blondness as beauty. Few use the word white in their reasoning because they see blondness as a style free from its racial implications. For them it’s not a way of being or a sign of belonging. For each user of blonde dye, the journey is personal. Only the blondes know where blondness sends them. In this way, they are stamped; but it is also their freedom.
John Lucas and Claudia Rankine’s collaborative work Stamped is on view at Pioneer Works in New York until August 26.