Corey Presha’s paintings are tied to and derived from history of hatred in American humor. This recent body of work responds to the 2016 election and the ensuing sociocultural climate in America. By sourcing his imagery from a variety of historical artifacts—postcards, found materials, Jim Crow era print publications, and samples of early twentieth-century Black Americana procured from eBay—Presha explores a legacy of hate normalized through their distribution. While the provenance of racist and shameful sex jokes often remain author-less, they beg uncomfortable questions about their retelling and preservation. Is it necessary? For whom? Softened by slapstick humor and cartooning, and In the spirit of absurdism that grips an ideologically vapid social landscape, these paintings ask something existentially broader too: is irreconcilable difference the kernel of truth in every joke?
This series of paintings come after Presha's re-publication of the Black Panther Coloring Book with SUN, a publisher founded by Presha and Bill Sullivan. Originally depicting black children violently fighting authority figures like the police and slave drivers, the book was repudiated by the Black Panthers only to be reedited and redistributed by the FBI in an effort to slander the Black Panther Party. SUN’s edition of the Black Panther Coloring Book is presented redrawn and without the captions said to have been made excessively inflammatory in the FBI’s version. This play with voices borrowed, exchanged, lost in time, and leveraged for political ends is fundamental to Presha’s playful process of engaging history.