Double Agent Provocateur:
—Somewhere between James Bond, an often-conflicted spy, and Maximus the Gladiator, a slave who fights to preserve the lofty goals of a growing empire
That’s how Kenseth Armstead, the artist, describes James Armistead Lafayette, the slave who spied for George Washington during the American Revolution.
Armistead acted as a double agent, convincing Benedict Arnold and Britain’s General Cornwallis that he was an escaped slave and then feeding them disinformation about the American war effort. In 1786 he was emancipated.
In his series “Spook™: INVOCATION,” at LMAKProjects on Eldridge Street, Armstead “re-mixes” scenes from the life of Armistead (an ancestor??) in graphic-novel format, elevating him from the supporting actor’s role he appears in (if at all) in conventional histories to a position as leading man. If the dashing, spying slave looks to you like Jamie Foxx—that’s on purpose. (Weirdly, Foxx just signed up to play an escaped slave in a Quentin Tarantino movie, Django Unchained.)
Spook™: INVOCATION, Muzzle mouth, 2011, 9” x 12”, graphite on paper. Courtesy LMAKProjects