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Strange Fruit: 'Laocoon' Sculpture Unites Fat Albert, Police Shootings And Greek Mythology

Luccia Lowenthal

You could be forgiven if your first reaction to "Laocoon" is laughter.

Even Chris Reitz, gallery director of the University of Louisville's Hite Art Institute, admits to laughing when he first saw the piece in Miami. Simply put, it's a 10-foot-tall inflatable Fat Albert lying face down, hooked up to an air pump so it appears to be breathing.

But when you learn more about the original Laocoon, and the identity of the artist, there's more to the piece than a pop culture reference. Remember the Trojan horse a supposed peace offering that was actually stuffed with enemies trying to get inside the gates? In "The Aenid," Laocoon was the only one who smelled a rat — and he was killed for his protests.

You might say he was #woke ahead of his time.

Who would be Laocoon's modern-day American counterpart? Eric Garner? Mike Brown? Any number of black bodies we've seen in news footage, lying face-down, struggling to breathe? That's what "Laocoon" asks its viewers to consider.

And there's no thinking about Fat Albert now without thinking of Bill Cosby — another layer of meaning as the piece evokes the phenomenon of fallen idols.

This week we're joined by Sanford Biggers, an award-winning interdisciplinary artist and art professor who created "Laocoon." Reitz, who brought the exhibit to Louisville, also joins us.

"Laocoon" is on exhibit at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts through July 2.

And in our Juicy Fruit segment this week, a truly hot topic: Do you stay friends with your exes? A recent study suggests your motivation might be rooted in narcissism.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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