Black Face (2007)


Black Face (2007)


Portfolio of thirty images

Oil based ink on mirror

Edition of 12 + AP I/II, AP II/II

Each: 11 x 8 ½ in.

Printing: Lorenzo Clayton, The Cooper Union Print Shop





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In Blackface, Adams reprinted 30 declassified documents from Jean Seberg’s F.B.I. file at their original size on mirrors.  The contents of these documents uncover the F.B.I.’s monitoring of Seberg’s political, financial and sexual involvement with the Black Panthers and the smear campaign that F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover generated with the news media to destroy her.  These documents are graphically layered, with both the F.B.I.’s deletion markings of censored information and the reproduction scars generated from the serial photocopying as they were passed between government agencies.  In reprinting the documents on mirrors, Adams compounds their graphic layering with the viewer’s reflection.


Born and raised in Marshall, Iowa, Jean Seberg was only 17 in 1955 when she was chosen from thousands of hopeful young actresses by film director Otto Preminger to star as Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan.  In Seberg’s next film, Bonjour Tristesse, also directed by Preminger, her role as a spoiled pixyish adolescent vacationing with her playboy father in the French Riviera inspired a young Godard to invite her to co-star with Paul Belmondo in his New Wave sensation Breathless, 1959.  Seberg went on to star in a total of 34 films that also included The Mouse That Roared, Lilith, Paint Your Wagon and Airport.   But it was Seberg’s empathy and sexual relationship with Hakim Abdullah Jamal, a charismatic player in the Black Power Movement, as well as her financial support of the Black Panther Party that led the F.B.I. in 1969 to monitor her activities.  In 1970 the F.B.I. in an effort to smear Seberg’s reputation planted a false story with a gossip columnist for the Los Angeles Times that she was expecting a baby fathered by a “prominent Black Panther.”  Both Seberg and Roman Gary, Jean’s husband at that time, claimed Gary had fathered the child.  The infant girl was born prematurely and died two days later.  Seberg blamed the child’s death on the stress the rumor had caused during her pregnancy.  She never fully recovered emotionally from the event and over the next several years became increasingly dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs.  On September 9, 1979 Jean Seberg was found dead in her parked car in a Paris suburb.  The autopsy revealed she had overdosed on barbiturates and alcohol.  After a lengthy investigation, her death was ruled a suicide by the Paris police.

The artist would like to acknowledge the pioneering work of Margia Kramer who first requested the declassified F.B.I. files on Jean Seberg in 1979 under the United States’ Freedom of Information Act.   



Print Portfolio by Dennis Adams, The President’s Gallery at The Cooper Union, 2007

Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie, Paris, 2008

Dennis Adams: Double Feature.  Kent Gallery, New York, 2008