The Inferior Man That Proved Hitler Wrong

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Found tin, colored pencil, nails, on wood
43.75 x 42 x 4 inches
Collection of
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The Inferior Man That Proved Hitler Wrong is an homage to Jesse Owens that suggests the pent-up energy of an era of history—the black freedom struggle—is about to spring into full stride. Lockett's most compelling images were ones like Owens, whose position is a crouching animal (ready to strike at racism), a supplicant (using his humility as a source of strength) and a subject bowing or prostrating itself before a "master" (or "master race"). The submissively bowed athlete is anything but. (Compare the themes of heroic achievement in Inferior Man with those of its companion piece, Fever Within, which looks at the contemporary heroism shown by victims of the AIDS virus—the disease that killed the artist.)