Never Mind the Blackface. What About When Robert Downey, Jr. Played Jesus?

Robert Downey, Jr. definitely has caused some Internet chatter with his blackface performance in the movie Tropic Thunder, currently out in theaters, but an exhibition on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston reminds us of a simpler time, way back in 2001 when he played Jesus for artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s “Pieta.”

In this recreation of Michelangelo’s famous Pieta, Mother Mary is played by the artist herself. As she tenderly holds the actor in her arms, he doesn’t seem dead so much as sleeping (or maybe passed out; we lose track of exactly when he was sober).

Sure, blackface is definitely worth talking about, but let’s not forget sacrilege. – Keith Plocek

“Sam Taylor-Wood” is on display at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston through October 5. Be sure to check next week’s Houston Press for a full review from Troy Schulze.

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