In 1993, art historian Ann Gibson wrote in the journal American Art about her embrace of identity politics. For her, borrowing the insights from African-American studies, gay and lesbian studies, and feminism (to name but a few of the disciplines that lent their weight to identity politics) was a handy way to navigate the "extras" left over from her dissertation on Abstract-Expressionism: namely, the social contexts that helped explain why some (white, male) artists found success while others fell by the wayside. Of course, this approach didn't come without its drawbacks. The legacy of deconstructionism means that identity politics has increasingly focused on everything except the work itself.
I had a professor who bemoaned the fact that practitioners of identity politics rarely let the artwork speak, caught up as they were in fitting artists and their works into grander social narratives. They simply exchanged the idea of a canonical history for a variety of competing histories, never really acknowledging that artworks can themselves be multi-faceted objects. I've always remembered Martha Sandweiss' description of photographs as stable objects with unstable meanings.
Of course the value of any theory (or discipline) lies in the use-value of the insights it can glean. Leonardo Drew is one artist who seems to demand good writing from the practitioners of identity politics. Critics tend to interpret his work in light of his African-American heritage, and usually note that his large installations use materials like cotton that explicitly reference African-American history. But as works like Number 54 (above) testify, his art has to be understood through its formal properties, its qualities of touch and smell, the way it looms in the space of a gallery. A sculpture made from rust, fabric, plastic, and wood affects viewers on a visceral level as well as an intellectual one. His work, in fact, seems tailor-made to push the practice of identity politics to the next level.