British multimedia artist Hew Locke’s exhibition Patriots, now on view at New York's P.P.O.W, investigates how public statuary influences national identity and attitudes about history. Locke photographs public statues and embellishes the photographs, using culturally significant adornments to create a more complete conversation about the history these statues represent. Patriots focuses on a number of contentious US public sculptures, including George Washington, Peter Stuyvesant and Christopher Columbus.
The statues are adorned with objects and art connected to frequently unacknowledged cultures intertwined with these historical figures. Cowrie shells, silver dollars, and illustrations of tortured slaves by William Blake all add layers of context. In Washington, Federal Hall (2018), a statue of George Washington is decorated with paraphernalia associated with African culture and the slave trade. This indelibly marks Washington as a slaveholder, a fact which is often ignored or glossed over in historical representations.