“Going Dark” or the importance of agency over one’s visibility…

The Guggenheim Museum/ Tuesday January 9th, 2024

Welcome back friends!

Yay!

Welcome this week, to a thought-provoking, arresting, and eclectic, multimedia contemporary art exhibit around the idea of “recognition” in society.

To be seen or not be seen.

That is the question.

Wow.

“Going Dark” showcases more than 100 works by a group of 28 artists, the majority of whom are Black, and more than half of whom, are women.

Yay!

While most of the works are from the 1980s to the present, a selection of them were created in the 1960s and ’70s by three iconic artists: David Hammons (b. 1943), Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), and Charles White (1918-1979).

This exhibit is organized by Ashley James, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art with Faith Hunter, Curatorial Assistant. And is on view through April 7th, 2024.

Yay!

Also, the notion of “Going Dark” implies of course, a form of concealment from public view, or can also reference, potential emotional darkness.

Wow.

Yet interestingly, recognition, or lack of (recognition), both, can be freeing, depending on artists.

How about that!

So, I will only share 8 examples that have caught my attention, around this notion or “recognition” in society.

Yay!

And we shall see that at times, a state of “invisibility” is either imposed by (western) society, or self- imposed, as a means to “conceal oneself”, as an “escape” chosen by the individual for various reasons.

Wow.

  1. With “Untitled 13” (Trees and reflections from “Night Come Tenderly Black”) 2017 by Dawoud Bey (b. 1953), what is depicted here, in this silver print, is one of the real Ohio-based sites along the Underground Railroad (the clandestine routes by which a huge number of enslaved people sought their freedom from their dire circumstances in plantations).

Wow.

Darkness was needed to escape and find “safe” houses during their journey, so self concealment in the night was necessary.

Wow.

“Untitled 13” (Trees and reflections from “Night Come Tenderly Black”) 2017 by Dawoud Bey (b. 1953).

So mesmerizing and spiritually alive.

And personally, I also see in this silver print, the hope associated with the upcoming “palpable” freedom.

Yay!

2. With “Pass the plate” (from the Invisible Man series) 1991 by Ming Smith (b. 1947), it is once again a self imposed concealment we see here.

Yay!

It seems to me, that both the state of “invisibility/anonymity” of the ladies (not facing the camera), and the proper attire of these two ladies, are needed, as they volunteer in church.

Yay!

It is the helping of people attending mass that is important, not the actual “recognition” of the volunteers, even if they greatly contribute to the “service”, and also bring peace and comfort to all.

Yay!

“Pass the plate” (from the Invisible Man series) 1991 by Ming Smith (b. 1947).

So wonderful.

Yay!

3. With “Black light series”#3.1: Invisible Man #1 1968 by Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), it is once again a self imposed concealment we see here, interestingly addressing a public “concealment” issue.

Ringgold, by greatly darkening the color range, is asking the following question: “how much of the hatred directed at Black people, has to do with their lack of high visibility”?

Wow.

“Black light series”#3.1: Invisible Man #1 1968 by Faith Ringgold (b. 1930).

And interestingly as well, of course, to be able to “really” see the portrait, the viewer is forced to especially focus on the painting.

So ingenious.

And with better understanding, comes change.

Yay!

4. With “Dontrell Stephens, John Crawford, Jonathan Ferrel” (from the Asphalt and Chalk series) 2015 by Titus Kaphar (b. 1976), it is a “blurring” of identity we see here, and a critique by Kaphar, of mass incarceration.

Wow.

“Dontrell Stephens, John Crawford, Jonathan Ferrel” (from the Asphalt and Chalk series) 2015 by Titus Kaphar (b. 1976).

So sad and explicit to me, about the slow but certain, “erasure” of identity endured in jail.

Wow.

5. With “Double Quadruple Etcetera Etcetera I” 2013 silent video installation by Sondra Perry (b. 1986), it is once again a self imposed concealment we see here.

Yay!

And here the “erasure”/ disappearance of the body of the dancer (while she is visibly dancing at a high speed), for Perry, is an aspiration to even more freedom of movement.

Yay!

“Double Quadruple Etcetera Etcetera I” 2013 (silent) video installation by Sondra Perry (b. 1986)

And I find it fascinating as well, that Perry chooses to only retain the legibility of one physical attribute: the dancer’s hair.

Wow.

And in my opinion, it probably has to do with the fact, that hair, for many (including in David and Goliath’s myth), is considered as a center of power.

So wonderful.

Yay!

6. With “Spectral Keepers” 2020 by Sandra Murjinga (b.1989), the artist apparently, is asking the question of what it means to be seen and not seen.

Wow.

And here, the concealment is also apparently, self imposed.

Yay.

It seems to me that the protective gear, including creepy hollow “hoodies”, may be due to extraordinary atmospheric conditions, such as for example, the imaginary desert like conditions found in Star Wars movies.

Yay!

Or perhaps, the “beings” living in this gear, may want to make themselves appear taller than they actually are.

Who knows?

Anyway, I like the imagination displayed in this work.

Yay!

7. With “It’s not easy being seen 7” 2016 by Farah Al Qasimi (b. 1991), the artist points in a very cheeky way (in my opinion), at society’s concealment of muslim women, in muslim countries.

Wow.

I must say I especially love the silk green glove covering in a feminine, yet totally “concealing” way, the woman’s arm), to illustrate with humor, the sole prevalent “household role” of muslim women (love the flower vase she is in charge of).

No kidding.

A role that the artist feels, is no longer, a role necessarily given to women, by the rest of the world.

Yay.

“It’s not easy being seen 7” 2016 by Farah Al Qasimi (b. 1991)

In addition to the sense of humor displayed, I also see the necessary attentiveness to one’s home, this picture implies, even if one is not “seen” by a society who overlooks women.

So fun, yet sad, and probably true.

Wow!

8. Finally with “Slow fade to Black II”, 2009-2010 by Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953), the artist “blurs” images of 11 groundbreaking artists: Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Leontyne Price, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Bassey, Ella Fitzgerald, Abbey Lincoln, Earth Kitt, Koko Taylor and Katherine Dunham, to imply that they no longer have the importance they should have in (western) society today.

Oh no.

“Slow fade to Black II”, 2009-2010 by Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953)

I actually happen to think, that anyone who truly loves music, will get to know them!

Yay!

And thanks to them, as Dinah Washington would sing it, one comes to realize, that this bitter earth, is not so bitter after all.

Yay!

And to prove this, here is a beautiful Wheeldon “Pas de deux” excerpt, from a few years ago, set to this beautiful “This bitter earth” Dinah Washington song, which is danced by many ballet companies around the world.

Yay!

So, to sum up my feelings, about The Guggenheim’s “Going Dark”, multimedia contemporary art exhibit, admired last Tuesday, in great company: what striking work from various artists, which make clear, how important it is to be in charge, of how one wants to showcase, one’s identity.

Wow.

So thought provoking.

Not to be missed!

Until next time friends.

Yay!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊