Donelle Woolford: Dick’s Last Stand

A reenactment of a stand-up by Richard Pryor realized on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial
Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 7:00pm
CCA Wattis Institute, 360 Kansas Street, San Francisco

The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts is pleased to present Dick’s Last Stand, a free and public performance by New York-based artist Donelle Woolford.

The performance is realized in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as part of the 2014 Biennial. This edition of the Biennial -- the country’s best-known survey of the latest developments in American art -- will take place March 7–May 25, 2014.

(It will be the last Biennial in the Museum’s building at 945 Madison Avenue before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.)

Woolford’s cathartic new body of work chronicles the place of honor afforded the male sex organ in American art and politics, and continues the oral tradition of phallic humor and innuendo in popular culture. Through the picaresque adventures of a character named Richard (aka "Dick") Dick’s Last Stand is a 40-minute reenactment of the stand-up routine that Richard Pryor performed in 1977 for the last episode of his short-lived television show.

The routine is a subversive work of deconstruction and social commentary that, by Pryor’s design, was censored from the final NBC broadcast. Consequently, Pryor’s stand-up has only ever been experienced by the 75-plus persons who were in the live studio audience that night.

Thus, Dick’s Last Stand honors Pryor’s brash political humor and marks its return to the live stage, where its allegories on race, conformity, representation, and subterfuge are as painfully hilarious as ever.

Throughout the original performance, Pryor continually dissembled himself, playing with the notion that Richard Pryor, comedian, was someone who could not be pinned down or controlled. He slid from one character or attitude to the next without ever indicating when -- if ever -- the audience was seeing the “real” Richard Pryor.

This chimerical quality -- this defiance -- is what attracted Woolford to the performance in the first place, but her reenactment pushes the mise en abyme even further. Instead of Richard Pryor playing Richard Pryor playing Mudbone, Dick’s Last Stand is Woolford playing Richard Pryor playing Richard Pryor playing Mudbone -- across generations and in drag!

Dick’s Last Stand tour dates:

LA Art Book Fair, Los Angeles 1/31/14
La><art, Los Angeles 2/2/14
Wattis Institute, San Francisco 2/6/14
Solespace, Oakland 2/8/14
MOCAD, Detroit 2/14/14
Dorchester Projects, Chicago 2/18/14
JACK, Brooklyn 3/7/14
The Kitchen, New York 4/1/14
Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis 5/20/14
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha 5/21/14
White Flag Projects, St. Louis 2/22/14
Contemporary Art Center, Peoria 5/24/14

Dick’s Last Stand is accompanied by Dick Jokes, an extraordinary volume of phallic humor compiled from throughout the United States over the past 50 years. It is available at all tour venues and at thingsthatfall.com.

About Donelle Woolford
Donelle Woolford (b. 1980 in Detroit) lives and works in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Philadelphia, London, and Vienna. She has participated in the exhibitions Double Agent at the ICA London; The 8th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates; and Buy American at Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris.

Her performances have been staged at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton; The Suburban, Chicago; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. She is represented by Wallspace, New York, and Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna.