Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems
b. Portland, Oregon, 1953

Jim, If You Choose To Accept, The Mission Is To Land On Your Own Two Feet, 1990
Silver gelatin print

20 x 16 inches

Edition 2 of 5, with 2 artist proofs
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

In Jim, If You Choose To Accept…, Carrie Mae Weems combines text and image to present an obviously staged scene, characterized by dramatic lighting and carefully placed props, that reframes the classic opening of the 1960s television series Mission: Impossible. But rather than taking on fictional Eastern European dictators, fascist revivalists, or organized crime syndicates, this man is asked to do some-thing presumably more modest, though perhaps no less challenging—to simply survive.

Weems’s Jim seems more aligned with the figure of Jim Crow than Jim Phelps, the leader of the Mission: Impossible agents. Another fictitious character, Jim Crow became the name for the harshly discriminatory segregation laws enacted in Southern states from the post-Reconstruction era to the mid-1960s, when the combination of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts effectively overruled them. In Weems’s work, Jim looks anxiously toward the tape recorder that delivers his mission. The odds are still overwhelmingly stacked against him, and he seems to recognize that now his hardships will be viewed as a result of self-destructive behavior, rather than blatantly institutionalized inequality.

Return to Under Color of Law exhibition